All set to go on holiday? Passport, check. Money, check. Books, check. Nothing left to do except weigh your luggage. And then you find you have gone over the weight the airline allows. Your choice is to pay the tariff at the airport or start unloading things now. That’s when you realise how really heavy print books are. And how very convenient an eReader would be.
The glossy paperback or the hardback you see today has some pretty strange ancestry. The book as we now know it, started life as a clay tablet in Mesopotamia in the third century BC. It had to be written on while the clay was wet and then fired to dry. Imagine trying to haul a week’s worth of clay tablet off on your holidays. Papyrus appeared in the second millennium BC and because it was pliable and lighter, it was more user friendly – though the history of the reign of Rameses 111 on papyrus is said to measure over 40 metres long when unscrolled. That is approximately the height of a ten storey building. Obviously that prototype was not going to stand the test of time.
Around the same era, Chinese people were writing on a variety of materials- bone, shells, wood, silk. It was there, in the first century BC, paper was made, reportedly from the bark of a blackberry bush. An Italian missionary, named Matteo Ricci, visiting China at that time, noted that there were a lot of books in circulation and that they were being sold at very low prices. Which is exactly the observation Matteo would probably make now if he came back to visit the twenty first century.
There were many innovations in script and book materials between the clay tablet era and 1440, when Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press. Because printing made books cheaper and more widely available, it brought about a seismic change. Books became commercially viable and the hunt was on for a reading market in the general public. That hunt still continues in today’s world of mass-produced and self-published books. A positive change for authors is that the writers of old had no rights over their published works. Nor did they receive payment unless they had a generous patron. Copyright over the work is a great improvement but the loss of generous patrons is to be regretted! The first book printed in the English language in 1475 was Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. I wonder how many books have been printed since Guttenberg first had his eureka moment with the printer. It must number millions, or even billions, when all languages are taken into account.
The next big step in the genesis of the book was the Amazon Kindle in 2007. The material used had changed again. The words were on screen and not on paper. You did not turn pages but pressed a key, you could change the text size to suit yourself, buy books without leaving your home and have them instantly loaded onto your eReader. The Kindle was light, compact, capable of storing hundreds, if not thousands, of books at a time. A boon for those holiday reads.
And so it began, the battle of the print book versus the eBook. People divided into two camps; one, the traditionalist, who swore they could not survive without the smell of a new print book; two, the eReader owner who gloried in not having to find shelf-space for their books. eBooks are also, by and large, cheaper than print, so therefore accessible to a wider audience. The advent of eBooks has made self-publishing a viable option. This development has detractors and advocates. It is good that everyone has the opportunity to tell and share their story, whether that is biographical or fiction. On the other hand, the mass of new ebooks coming on line at any one time is staggering. As a reader, I struggle to decide on my next read. As a writer, I cringe at the volume of books mine have to compete with.
I can imagine, as I write this, the Assyrian scribes hanging on to their clay tablets and swearing to never have anything to do with Papyrus scrolls. And so on with each historical change until the battle of print and eBook was joined in 2007. The format of the book has changed but not the essence. Does it matter whether a child absorbs the magic of fairy tales from a printed page or an LCD screen? Will a story be any different whether it is bound between paper covers, or flicks by on an eReader?
I have a personal preference for eBooks for several reasons, the main one being I suffer from arthritis in my hands and holding a weighty book can be uncomfortable. My feather light eReader fits snugly in my hand and never causes me pain. The eBook revolution also gave me the opportunity to self –publish my seventh novel, Fire And Ice. It proved to be a challenging but satisfying exercise.
Having said all that, I have print books which I have owned since childhood. In fact I treasure a little book which my grandmother read when she was a child. It’s titled, The Birthday Present, by Miss Edgeworth and was printed by Milner And Sowerby in 1858. There are beautiful illustrations in that book and exquisite print. The stories are dated, but the book itself is a precious work of art. I doubt very much if my grandchild will, in the future, hold my Kindle and admire it as an exquisite artefact.
Who knows what the next step in book evolution will be? The only certainty is that mankind will continue to learn and express creativity. Whatever shape the book takes it will always be part of educating and entertaining mankind.
Thank you to Celia for hosting me on her blogspot and thanks also to Lucy Felthouse (Writer Marketing Services) for organising my visit here.
Excerpt from Thicker Than Water
Here, in Rainbow Cottage high up over Ballyderg town, Jan had found relaxation. Ever since she could remember, possibly since she had been born, she was driven by an inner spring of energy that constantly bubbled up. She was always on the go. Tasks to be completed, decisions to be made, energy to be burned up. It was these hills, the still and brooding giants with wispy cloud hair, which first soothed her into sometimes slowing down. Changes swirled around them, the seasons, the weather, light and dark, but their core stood firm against outside influence. Eventually she had absorbed that lesson.
From the plate glass window of the lounge she watched a car wind its way up from the valley. She went into the kitchen and switched on the kettle, knowing from experience that the green tea they both enjoyed would be brewed by the time he arrived at the cottage.
Gerard Shannon parked in his usual place ten minutes climb on foot to Jan’s cottage. He stood and inhaled deeply before striding out. He always enjoyed the exercise but today he felt breathless, tormented, an iron band of tension squeezing his chest. If only the success and control he had in his business life applied to his private life also. If only he had been honest all those years ago. If only he could be honest now.
Blurb for Thicker Than Water :
When local teenager, Keira Shannon and her father, business man Gerard Shannon, go missing, the town of Ballyderg unites to search for them.
As the search continues rumours of domestic violence, extramarital affairs and criminal behaviour are rife. The crisis causes families and lifelong friends to doubt each other.
The only certainty left is that the town has been visited by evil. Or has it? Could it be the evil one has always lived there sharing history, laughter and tears? And if so, who could it be?
Amazon buy links : http://authl.it/3st
Tirgearr Publishing http://bit.ly/1J6E7ZV
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1RpGnhf
Mary worked many years as a Laboratory Technician. Her hobby, her passion, has always been writing. Busy with family and career, she grabbed some moments here and there to write poetry and short stories. She also wrote a general interest column in a local newspaper.
As the demands on her time became more manageable she joined a local creative writing class. It was then, with the encouragement of tutor Vincent McDonald, that the idea of writing a novel took shape. She began to expand on a short story she had written some years previously. It was a shock for her to discover that enthusiasm and imagination are not enough. For the first time she learned that writing can be very hard work.
Mary now has six traditionally published novels, nine eBooks and hopefully more to come, inspiration permitting.
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