Make a long story short?
A writer named Leigh got me thinking with this
While the thread is putatively about which device(s) you use to read e-books, the heart of the question to me is this: how should authors adapt their works to better suit the ways they are being consumed on digital devices?
I know, I know…some of you are shouting, “Not at all!” You don’t want e-books to change the way books are written.
The medium has always changed books. It would have been really difficult to get a 2,500 page novel published in one volume in hardback. It would probably have been broken into several books…which would have changed the way it was written. How about a five hundred page series romance? What about a great story that was sixty-five pages? Too short to be published on its own (usually), too long to be included with ten other short works.
I wrote waaaaaaaaaay back in 2009 about how I thought this might be a good time to revive serialized novels. Some of the great literature was originally serialized (published a section at a time in a magazine), and you can feel the rhythm of that. I did start a blog to do that with the original Sherlock Holmes novels/short story collections. It’s never really taken off, but I still think that sort of thing could hit with the reading public.
The same thing is also true with visual media, of course. A story can simply be too complex for a single movie, and might become several movies…or a miniseries, perhaps.
So, let’s accept the postulate that the medium of delivery might affect the way a book is written.
How should writers change their works for the digital age?
I’ve made some mechanical suggestions, primarily to improve samples. For example, I’d move the author bio, acknowledgments, and so on, to the back of the book.
What about the book itself?
One hypothesis is that smaller bits are better, because people are reading catch-as-catch-can while in lines and such. I did that with paperbooks (p-books), but having books as convenient as your cellphone means that people who didn’t plan their days around having a book (or two) with them may do that as well.
If people read on backlit devices, like current tablet computers and SmartPhones, it may be that they just read for a shorter period of time. That could be both from battery life and from having a light shone in your eyes for long periods.
I think that’s not an unreasonable idea, but I always like to try and get data. Are you preferring shorter things now that you are reading e-books?
I could also see the opposite being true. I have a title on my Kindle that consists of 100 mysteries (most of them novels). I could never have carried around a single volume of a p-book with all that in it!
So, let me do a little data gathering and ask you some questions.
What do you think? Should an author write in short chunks to accommodate a “rapid shift” culture? Are you reading longer or shorter pieces? Do you think phones will become the main choice for reading e-books? Feel free to let me know.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.