I wanted to make today’s post short, because the sun is shining in Ireland. This happens so infrequently that anyone caught spending too much screen-time is immediately taken into protective custody and placed beside a body of water with Factor 50 and no Wi-Fi.
Also, I thought this post would be short because it’s my Blogiversary, and seeing as that’s technically news, I shouldn’t have had to waffle on about anything else. However, when WordPress informed me that I began this blog 5 years ago, it resulted in a revelation of gargantuan proportions, which that is that people are still not listening to me.
Oh, people read this blog, all right. They come for the LOLs, and stay for the cynicism, self-deprecating bitterness, and jokes about bosoms.
But are they listening? Of course not. Because in the past 5 years, I have utterly failed to change the world.
I haven’t overthrown a single government, let alone a publishing cliché. I have failed to stamp out literary stereotypes, or the rampant populism of copycat genre fiction. People are still self-publishing without getting their stuff professionally edited, and I myself haven’t hit the New York Times bestseller list with even one of the books I never published.
Accordingly, I am going to celebrate my blogiversary by asking the publishing industry once again for something I have been asking for, for years:
Now, could this BE any more boring, I hear you think in a Friendly Chandlerian whine?
Well, yes, quite frankly. Because every day of the week, people wail about problems in the book world. We keep banging on about authors not being able to make a living, or certain business models in publishing being broken, or trade paperbacks being too heavy, or books being too cheap, or books being too expensive – sometimes even the same books…
But do we ever offer solutions? No. Or, rarely, at least. So shouldn’t someone listen when we do?
Innovation is the only way to beat the new reality, which is that fewer people are reading fewer books, despite there being far more ways of consuming books than ever before. And this is because no book can ever compete with the hand-held internal portal and window on the world that is the smartphone.
I was once that old cliché – the ‘Voracious Reader’. Once upon a time, I never left the house without a book. There wasn’t a form of public transport I didn’t read books on. Any time my arse settled into a seat of any description, I had a book in my hands. I read at lunchtime. I read at goinghometime. I read at bedtime.
I was never without a book. But then smartphones happened.
Social media didn’t kill reading. Smartphones killed reading. Because no matter how much time I spend on social media, it cannot compare to the amount of time I spend reading the news on my phone.
When you only have between 5 and 10 minutes to spare, a little voice whispers in your head. “Don’t read your book, you don’t have time to get into it,” the voice says. “Read an article about dumbsplaining financial derivatives to Donald Trump instead. That’ll only take 30 seconds.”
20 minutes later, however, you’ve read 9 articles, and somehow still found time to disappear into a YouTube or blogging wormhole which made you miss your stop.
This makes me think that books just have to become more app-able. By this they need to become flexible, portable and present the same choices, so that they don’t seem like an inferior alternative to 4 articles about how a pair of pink socks made an actress look either fat or pregnant (depending on how misogynistic you are).
It’s all about competing for those 10-minute attention windows. So in that vein, what if you knew you’d have to stop reading a book, because you had to go out, or get off the train – but what if you also knew you could just put on headphones and have the audiobook pick up exactly where you left?
Or let’s just say I don’t want to read an e-book right now. Maybe because the sun is shining, or I want to refer to the cover, or I don’t want to look at a screen, or I just don’t like them really.
What if I knew I could switch between the paperback version at home, and the e-book in a queue, and the audiobook version while I’m walking or driving?
What if I had all of those delivery options available to me as a bundle for every single book I bought, which might mean that I’d finish a book quicker, meaning I might then BUY ANOTHER BOOK, meaning I might even DOUBLE my reading consumption over the course of a year?
Just sayin’. I know I can’t expect people to listen to me all of the time. But if I’m talking sense, could someone maybe just listen some of the time?
Help me out, here. Validate me on this, my 5th Blogiversary.
Would it make a difference to you if book formats were bundled like this? Would you read more? Could you care less? Or could this be the way forward?