Though it seems like hardly anyone reads anymore, even while there are apparently more writers than ever, the enduring popularity of literature and the written word, in any format, continues well into the 21st century, with print and eBooks finally co-existing peacefully, and profitably.
But are readers actually reading, or just skipping around and skimming? Are writers actually writing, or just âtypingâ (to paraphrase Truman Capoteâs infamous critique of Jack Kerouac)?
Sadly, both are often the case.
This recent blog posted in The Reading Room acknowledged this undeniable reality. Actually, it goes so far as to share some professional speculation out there that perhaps readers and writers are being âdumbed downâ by the digital platform.
So why not just sit around on the sofa watching reality TV, if thatâs the case?
Because itâs not, really.
âThe intellectual gap between reading and 'just looking' is still pretty wide. - Tweet This!
Even the lightest reading requires more attention and brainpower than watching any episode of any television show, or movie (even with a complex plot), or your standard YouTube music video.
Reading and writing each demand a level of concentration that visual (and aural) mediums do not. And that explains why theyâre more generally popular with the general public â and have been not just this century, but for decades now.
In truth, consumers seem collectively pleased by the smorgasbord of choices flooding the marketplace nowadays. Otherwise nobody would be writing and publishing, because nobody would be reading, for real.
More Does Not Always Equal Better
However, the fact that more writers can now upload their own previously marginalized works is both a boon for readers and a warning to shop smartly. Discerning consumers can spot an amateur by the way a product page is designed, or by readerâs reviews. So writers need to be equally careful when pitching their wares to a wary potential audience.
As a reader, I find eBooks to be both convenient and cost effective. I read perhaps four or five at a time without carrying around a cumbersome load. Kindle also saves your place so when you click on the cover, youâre taken right back to where you left off makes the whole process of switching in between books that much simpler.
But itâs also tempting to âgive upâ too easily if a particular narrative doesnât sustain interest. Thereâs less of a physical commitment involved. You can literally turn it âoffâ or âonâ in an instant, which can be tempting if your eyes get tired, or you get distracted by that email or Facebook notification that just popped up.
The competition for shrinking attention spans â or rather, attention spans spread far too thin amongst way too many alternative pastimes â is one reason eBooks are both beloved and reviled, depending on the needs of the individual.
From a writerâs perspective, being able to publish a piece within hours of finishing it is both exhilarating and challenging, because the danger of sharing inferior work with the world at large looms that much larger, without any âoversightâ or âgate keepersâ to wave the red flag in my eager face.
The upside is thereâs no one telling me I canât publish a particularly edgy or experimental piece, either.
The final verdict is declared by the readers, as it should be. And Iâm saying that as both a reader and as a writer.
Look Before You Leap
Thatâs why hitting the âpublishâ button should only happen after many, many hours, days, weeks or in some cases, years of writing, revising, editing, rewriting, pre-promoting, and just plain learning.
If you follow ânormalâ procedure â i.e. professional â procedure, the relative simplicity of actually converting your work into a product is deceptive, since youâll be going through the same rigorous pre-publication routine (followed by aggressive self-promotion) as any traditionally published author.
The main difference is, rather than wait a year or so for your publisher to get around to printing and marketing your book, you can start doing it yourself, immediately upon completion.
So both as a reader and a writer, youâre only as lazy as you choose to be. You canât blame it on the platform. Just because itâs easy to use doesnât mean you canât be hard to please.
And that's how the publishing industry will not only continue to grow, but to improve.
PHOTO: SCOTT RAYMOND
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