Medium vs. Message

I love when the fog is in the valley. It seems so metaphorical. Doesn’t hurt that I’m above it all and still have a clear view.

I wish.

Last night I watched Practical Magic. For maybe the one-billionth time. Yeah, it’s one of my all-time favorites, for so many reasons. Some of them are definable and some aren’t. I love it for the LOOKS the women exchange, which seem to be impossible to capture in writing. A glance full of meaning in a movie becomes a cliche of crossed arms and raised eyebrows in a book. Sometimes I envy the filmmakers. I can see the scene between my characters play out in my head, but how to describe it so someone else can see it?

One of the great challenges of writing, I suppose.

Ironically, however, if there are two versions of a story, both a book and a movie, it’s rare for anyone to say the movie was better. In most of these cases, the book came first. I think the last time I read a book that came after a movie was back in the late 70s, after the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV, for the purists) came out. I read one of those tie-in books that they generated to keep the story going. I was getting big into sci fi then and loved the movie. SO disappointing. I was bewildered by the liberties taken with the story and characters. The book itself was poorly written. And gross. Seems like a light saber got jabbed in someone’s eyeball with associated flying goop. At any rate, I never read another. This might explain why I never got into fanfic of any kind. Traumatized at an early age.

Still, the point is that both books and movies tell a story, just in different ways. And books – well they pretty much read like books, no matter how the words are displayed. Jonathan Franzen, who I’m starting to think is worried no one will pay attention to his writing if he’s not being an ass waffle (thank you DYAC!), has now famously declared ebooks a threat to society. He also claims that “serious readers” – whoever those people may be – will continue to read on paper because that has a permanence that ebooks lack.

His justification is beyond bizarre. He says he can spill water on a book and it still works, which you can’t do with an ereader. Yeah, but enough water does ruin a paper book and oh, say, setting it on fire kinda ruins that permanence. But this is the kind of nut job you can’t really reason with.

What gets to me with the ensuing conversations is all the people saying things like the author of this article says:

Franzen doesn’t even take into consideration the countless self-published authors who wouldn’t have a chance of seeing their books actualized because of the old guards at the gates of publishing companies. Most of them won’t win a Pulitzer Prize, but they’ve achieved a dream of sharing their stories with the world.

I’d say it’s more to the point that Franzen would think those people shouldn’t be published if the can’t get through the gates. (Not my opinion – speculating on his.) But that’s neither here nor there. People continue to conflate self-publishing with digital publishing. It’s bizarre to me, because this is demonstrably not the case. I can purchase Franzen’s Freedom from Amazon as a hardcover ($14.44 as of this posting), paperback ($10.88), ebook ($9.99) or audiobook ($37.79). If I read it on paper, will my experience be more serious than on my Kindle?

It’s absurd to think so.

As for permanence, if I leave my hardcover or paperback out in the rain, I’d have to buy a new copy. If I leave my Kindle in the rain, I still have my entire library of books backed up in the data cloud. Which is more permanent?

And what about the audiobooks? Are they evil, bad and a threat to society, too? I can’t recall seeing attacks on audiobooks like we’ve seen on ebooks.

It’s all the same hysteria over change. Which is fine. I understand. We all hit a point where we simply can’t adapt to yet more more technology. But don’t dress up your mental inflexibility as wisdom.

And leave my ebooks alone.

2 Replies to “Medium vs. Message”

  1. I find I’m more forgiving of the whole book to movie thing if I see the movie before reading the book. I mean, if I’d read Jurassic Park first, I would’ve totally hated the movie, but since I didn’t, I can enjoy both. (Same goes for Patriot Games and The Firm, btw.)

    I still haven’t jumped on the ebook train, but I say, however people want to read, let ’em. At least they’re reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.