Monday, March 8, 2010

Alternate formats

Here's one thing that I have yet to encounter in all the hubbub about ebooks, graphic novels, smart phone texts, -- all the alternate format stuff that is roaring out there picking up speed and kicking up chipdust: Will any of these formats actually WORK with readers? I don't mean work as in "the acquisition of information" work or even the "providing an entertaining evening" work. There are lots of books that do these things, lots of formats and platforms that do. But what I mean is at the level of literature, can they work? It seems to me that to be locked in, engaged, with a text in a way that affects a person on this level, a crucial element, if not THE crucial element, is the "suspension of disbelief", our internal skeptic that must be muzzled or at least seduced. The extent to which a work of literary art is successful is the extent to which it causes you to suspend disbelief and engage wholeheartedly with it on one or more levels. That's a proposition.

So, if that's the case, how are these AFs (alternate formats) doing at this? Everyone knows, or at least the lucky know, that you can curl up in a cozy chair with a book and get lost in it. Can you suspend disbelief reading lines of text on a 32" LG colour monitor? Fiddling with the buttons as you read your Kindle? Your smart phone? I don't know the answer to that, and I haven't come across anyone who does. If you can, then great, we're set to carry our literary art into the digital universe. But if you can't, then you better be aware of what you might be missing while you are scanning that ebook. What we might be losing if we just let the book slip away like an astronaut's spacewrench into the void.

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