The impact of e-books has been tremendous. Putting aside self publishing for a second, e-books have still played an important role in the evolution of the book.
How many people do you see sitting on a train or in the bus during the daily commute staring into an e-reader? I bet it is more people than used to sit there holding a book.
I used to commute to work, and there would be one or two people reading a book in the morning, but now, and while I cannot verify it myself, a number of my commuting colleagues have advised me, nearly everybody is staring into a reading device of some sorts.
Reading has become … in a word, easier since e-books came alone. The size and weight of an e-reader is obviously a factor, but so is the anonymity of it. You can now sit and read whatever you want, without having to watch those around you stare at you, clearly judging you based on the cover of the book you are reading. (Ok, maybe that last bit is one of my own personal issues but you get the picture.)
E-readers have made reading fun again.
As someone who has always loved reading, I don’t get it, because reading has always been fun, but it cannot be denied that the interest in reading has gone up since e-readers came to town. A study I found online concluded that 40% of people with an e-reader say that they are reading a lot more than before, with traditional books.
This fact, does lead nicely into the main point of this topic. Size.
Is size important, or is it really a case of knowing how to use what you have?
Stories are there to be told, and in the old days, back when story telling was a word of mouth event (insert any image you want here) the length of the story depended on how much there was to tell. It was done when all was told, and that was it.
Somewhere along the way, this got lost, and word counts came into play.
When I first started to write, and was looking around for how to get an agent and / or a publisher, I was reading so many sentences and advice columns that said…
A debut novel should never be over 100,000 words, people don’t want to read that much from an unknown writer
A novel is at least 70,000
Short stories have to be 5,000 words, but collections need to be 70,000 in total etc.
It was just another example of where the modern world has decided to define itself by a number, rather than a gesture, or the event itself.
With e-books however, the momentum has been shifted. We can not write what we want to write and have it made available to people. The restrictions or the theoretically imposed restrictions of a certain work count have in essence been removed. The importance has once again been placed on the tale being told and not the length of time one is given to tell it.
It is a fact of life, some stories are shorter than others. Some are short and powerful, while others are slow and lingering. It would be unfair to the storyteller, the audience / readers and the art itself if we were to either stretch or condense the tale because society dictates that it should be a certain length.
Novellas and short stories are widely available now, and can be bought as individual entities, perfect for all walks of life. The daily commute, or those quite moments that arise from time to time where the children are at school or playing quietly and housework can, well… fuck the housework, reading is fun.
We are forced to place too much of an emphasis on size that I find it refreshing to see authors using the e-book revolution (and I am also talking about large name, mainstream writers… or at least their work is on the piece) as a chance to bring back the art of story telling. To not be afraid of varied story lengths.
Sure, the bigwigs out there may still adhere the this outdated fallacy, but it is us, the writers that can bring around the true change in consensus. A story is a story no matter how long it is, and if it is important enough to the teller for them to need to share it with us, then nothing else should matter.