Should we think of ebooks as belonging to their own genre? An interesting question, yes?
An ebook that is just a print book in a digital format is still a book, just like the audio version. But what about ebooks that aren’t like printed books, ebooks that take advantage of their digital birth and do things that books can’t? I don’t mean enhanced books with hyperlinks and bonus video, but something interactive that can only be done in a digital environment. I am not exactly sure what that would look like, but it might not be long until we find out. Author Iain Pears (An Instance of the Fingerpost) is currently writing an original interactive book for Faber.
Pears’s book might not be like any book we have ever read before. I think it is fair to say at that point, when digital books go beyond the printed page, ebooks are their own genre. Genre seems like an inadequate and potentially confusing descriptor though since we could have the genre of eliterature and all kinds of genres within it – mystery, science fiction, literary fiction, etc. It ends up being kind of like graphic novels, a genre that is not just fiction these days. How do you think of the graphic genre? I’ve read graphic fiction and graphic biographies and graphic memoirs. Maybe that is how we will come to see ebooks too? We’ll read enovels and ebiographies and ememoirs. Literature, but different than print, different than graphic. I suppose that wouldn’t be so confusing.
I am curious to see what Pears writes. With my luck though I won’t be able to read it on my Kindle and will need to have a tablet in which case I am out of luck. That’s the thing about eliterature, the required gadgetry. And the gadgets keep changing. Writing for a digital environment means the technology will always be changing too to keep up with the gadgets. What happens after Pears publishes his book and five years later the technology has changed and the book will no longer run on the newest tablet? Did you librarians and digital preservationists just feel that shiver of fear run down your spine? Who will be making sure eliterature written today is still readable in 5, 10, and 20+ years? That’s a nightmare I don’t want to think about right now.