Monday books: Franzen on e-books, the end of books and more
"The Great Gatsby was last updated in 1924. You don’t need it to be refreshed, do you?" That was Jonathan Franzen speaking at a book festival in Cartagena, Colombia. “Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing -- that’s reassuring," he said, the Telegraph reports.
"I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change. Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that."
Scottish author Ewan Morrison is equally skeptical. In the Guardian, he describes a self-published e-book bubble, putting author Amanda Hocking -- who is said to have made $2.5 million writing and selling e-books on her own -- in what he calls Stage Five: Market Reversal/Insider Profit-Taking. "For the hundreds of thousands of newcomers to self-epublishing to believe that they can become as successful as these role models is a dangerous delusion," he writes, "one capitalised on by companies who have an interest in maximizing internet traffic and selling e-readers and internet advertising." Morrison's saddest conclusion? "I, for one, could never have guessed that writing about the end of books would generate more income for me than actually publishing the damn things."
But not everyone is bashing e-books. On Monday, Open Road media announced an e-books partnership with ProPublica, the first online news organization to have won a Pulitzer Prize."Ebooks are a very promising platform for publishing journalism with high impact, and therefore a critical venue for ProPublica," Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief and CEO of ProPublica, said in a statement. Open Road's ProPublica e-books will include multimedia such as video, maps, photos and additional documentary material.
At the core of books, e-books and print, is story. And one story that won big at Sunday night's Screen Actors Guild Awards was "The Help." Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, a long-lived bestseller, has proved successful on screen, taking three of the major SAG Awards: best actress for Viola Davis, best supporting actress for Octavia Spencer and best ensemble cast, the actors union's highest honor.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Jonathan Franzen reads in Los Angeles in 2010. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times