Monday, 25 November 2013

Guest Post: Ebooks Have no Soul?

Ebooks Have No Soul
by Annette Gisby

I've been seeing variations of that sentence for a while now on various places on the web. Interestingly enough, I haven't seen it on anything printed, you know, those things that supposedly do have soul.

I grew up in Ireland, storytelling was a way of life. There were always stories going round in my head. As a girl, I had dolls, but with me my dolls were characters in stories which I used the dolls to act out. Gradually as I got older I no longer used my dolls to act out the stories but started writing them down in notebooks with pencil or pen.

One Christmas my parents got me a manual typewriter so I started writing my stories on that. It had a strange quirk, that typewriter. Despite being new, the letter 'S' never worked properly, it always appeared as subscript rather than in the main body of the text. By the time I was considering getting work published professionally I knew that manuscript pages typed with the letter 'S' always appearing as subscript was not going to cut it, despite it being an interesting quirk. My first ever wages were spent on an electronic typewriter which worked perfectly out of the box.

I graduated next to an electronic word processor shortly after my husband and I were married. It was a bulky thing which only did word-processing and nothing else and to save work you needed 3in floppy disks. At the time we bought it we had no idea that most word-processors and personal computers at the time usually had 31/2 inch disks, not 3. But we'd paid our money and we stuck it out.

We had different word processors, typewriters and computers over the years, but one thing didn't change. I was still writing the same stories that I wanted to write. Did it matter that I no longer wrote with paper and pen but with a keyboard? Would the story have less soul? I don't think so.

To me, a story is a story whether it is printed on a dead tree or read on a computer screen or ebook reader.

Were the first people to write their stories down outcasts because they were no longer keeping to the oral tradition? Did Gutenberg suffer people not wanting to read books because they were printed rather than written with a quill and ink?

Everything evolves eventually, ebooks are just another step. A good story will have soul whether or not it is printed or electronic or read aloud. I don't think ebooks will replace paper books, the way paperbacks have not replaced hardbacks. They all complement each other and to say that one version has less soul than the other doesn't make sense to me.

I think of myself as a storyteller and I don't mind what way people read my stories, whether it is electronically or on paper.

My soul is in each of them.

Take care,
Annette Gisby