“Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write” and “Why Do We Always Proclaim That the Novel Is Dead”

In the article “Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write”, Mason writes that the attention span has shortened and people are now reading on devices such as mobile phones and kindles, and “dipping into them in the coffee queue or on public transport”. In my opinion, this is not something that has been caused solely by ebooks as all of technology has had a part to play in this. In the past before technology, reading was a way of escapism for people whereas now escapism can be achieved through many things, like watching television and playing games. To me, it does not seem necessarily bad that people choose to read small segments while doing things like using public transport because it means that people still value reading and the novel as a source of entertainment. It means that the novel is not actually dead.

Liesl Schillinger’s response to “Why do we always Proclaim that the Novel Is Dead” raises many good points. For example, she talks about the fact that the people who proclaim that the novel is dead are people like her professor, who want to be the deciders of what is “good” literature. To say that the novel is dead when there are “richly realised fictional worlds that rise all around them” seems to me to mean that the literary novel is dying, not the idea of novels overall. The way that people like her professor and Will Self proclaim this idea makes me think that only their idea of what real literature is appear to be dying. Things such as literary novels however, are sometimes not actually thought as such at the time they are written. There could be things out there right now that in the future will come to be literary novels, they just may not be recognised as such right now. To continue to discredit all of current literature can only discourage writers and could even move along the process of the death of the novel.

What are everyone else’s views on this?

2 thoughts on ““Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write” and “Why Do We Always Proclaim That the Novel Is Dead””

  1. Amy Aspin’s reply

    I also agree with both Will and Holly that the idea that e-books are causing the downfall of novels because people can pick and choose where and what they like to read is an unsupported, poor view. By starting his article depicting, what can only be described as, a nostalgic view of reading a paper-back novel, it could be argued that this article may not be as unbiased as he wants it to be.

    Although, Mason is seen to try and argue for e-books by stating saying that he is not the ‘only person in his circle’ to read e-books, mostly from his kindle. He rather seems to blame things like social media (Facebook, Instagram etc.) for harming our brains ability to pay attention and therefore our ability to read and appreciate novels. He states that “The attention span has shortened not just because ebooks consist of a continuous, searchable digital text, but because they are being read on devices we use for other things. “ I disagree with this however as reading Facebook statuses on my small phone screen has not stopped my ability to appreciate and complete many novels.

    In response to Will and Hollys view that ,by people like Self and Schillinger’s professor stating that “the novel is dead” completely leaves the power of deciding what is good literature in the hands of the older generation, I completely agree. The older generation didn’t have access to e-books an d e-readers, so it can be said that the nostalgia of having a paper book to hold and to read is stopping people from fully accepting e-books as a equal form of literature.

  2. I totally agree with what you picked up on in the first paragraph. The idea that e-books are causing the downfall of novels because people can pick and choose where and what they like to read is just a poor argument in my opinion. There is no depreciation of reading literature just because it’s not printed and the fact that Mason starts the article with a strong sense of nostalgia leads me to believe that this may not be an unbiased take on e-books vs physical copy.

    “If you hand me the original paperback edition of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow I can, quickly and without too much scrabbling, find you the page where the hero loses the girl. My disappointment on his behalf has lingered physically on that page for the past 20 years.”

    However Mason actually makes a case for e-books, saying that he’s not the ‘only person in his circle’ to just use his kindle for new books. He does not put blame to the fact that e-books use newer technology and so therefore are addling our brains and causing them to be unresponsive in attention, but rather that the technology utilities so many other aspect of today’s life, e.g. Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, all the social media platforms that hold a place in today’s society. I understand his perspective behind this however I think it’s irrelevant as someone who is truly engrossed in a book isn’t going to be easily brought out of it.

    I also totally agree with your second point, there’s definitely a pronounced problem in which authors like Self talk about the ‘dying novel’ and people like Self and Schillinger only serve to be a part of this problem, an instance of decadence that even Self describes in his articles. I think an important aspect of this argument is the nostalgia brought up, as Schillinger says in her article:

    “I suspect it reflects a longing not so much for a bygone book as for a bygone era, in which human connections supposedly formed with a denser weave than they do today.”

    For a lot of writers and avid readers, e-books and e-readers were not a part of their childhood as they either lacked any real commercial use or they just simply hadn’t been invented. This lends to the idea that because it wasn’t a part of their fond childhood that they only really hold the good memories in regards to reading, they forget the hassle of ripping pages, relying on printing and lugging around a tonne of books; this is nostalgia, the bad blends into background and the only prominent is the good. This means that you can never please someone who is looking for something that they can’t get back, which in this case is the paper back book they so fondly remember from their childhoods.

    Any further thoughts on this?

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