Digital Readers

Sherman Alexie recently appeared on The Colbert Report to talk about his new book War Dances and winning the National Book Award and somehow they got onto the topic of digital content.

Alexie commented that he does not want his books available digitally, citing the pirating problems the music industry encountered when they went digital and the fear that your reading habits could be spied on by others.’  Alexie lamented the loss of artistic ownership and personal connection in the digital world.’  He talked of a better time when he would visit a town on book tour and spend all day on radio shows, tv shows, in bookstores and libraries connecting personally and physically with his readers.’  Now he catches the afternoon matinee while he waits for his one scheduled event.

As I watched this interview I wondered what would happen if you put Cory Doctorow, John Green and Sherman Alexie in a room together.’  Cory Doctorow has very successfully offered his books as free digital downloads.’  John Green uses the web to personally connect with more readers than he could possibly see on a book tour.’  How would Sherman Alexie defend his beliefs about digital content in the face of two authors who have not only profited but thrived in the digital environment?

What do you think about the move to digital content?’  Do you agree with Alexie that this could be the end of reading as we know it (I actually think we can all agree this is the case but does it mean the end of reading entirely)?’  Have you interacted with a digital version of a book?’  What was it like?’  How did it compare/differ from the physical copy?

Come to the Libraries 3.0: Teen Edition on Friday, January 15th at the Midwinter Conference in Boston to hear Cory Doctorow speak about providing digital copies of his books for free.

For more commentary about the interview check out the following articles:

Sherman Alexie – A Study in Misunderstanding (Fiction Matters)
Ereaders Are a Nazi Scheme, and More Bizarre Theories From Ebooks’ Sworn Enemies (Gizmodo)
Author Sherman Alexie’s Rants On Colbert Against Ebooks, Piracy And ‘Open Source Culture’ (TechDirt)

About Kate Mcnair

YALSA Board Member 2015-2018
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2 Comments

  1. I heard this podcast yesterday about the future of the book and I think it has some interesting content related to this discussion – http://www.cnet.com/8301-30976_1-10387664-10348864.html?tag=mncol;title

    I am an avid reader of books on my iPhone Kindle app and am of course reading constantly when I’m on the web or using various other apps on my phone. I don’t think it’s the death of reading as we know it, I think it’s an expansion of reading.

    • I think that was a good interview from the perspective of an author who can profit just as much from the digital version of a book as the print version. And that younger readers (aka teens) are waiting for that all in one device (phone, ebook reader, computer etc).
      This article from the NY Times speaks from the perspective of a digital reader. Authors and publishers who are hesitant to sell digital copies of books are not making more money like they think but alienating readers who go looking elsewhere for their literature.

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