Fay Weldon recently asserted that a writer should produce two versions of their book. One for those capable of concentrating enough to understand a literary paper book, and another lightweight Kindle text to entertain those with limited attention spans.
Although she was being provocative, garnering press attention in the process, she has raised some thought-provoking issues. There’s been research that shows how those who use e-reading devices are less able to recall details about what they’ve read, compared to those who have just taken in the same story on a hard copy.
Author D.J. Taylor launched a riposte in the Independent newspaper.
He makes some valid points, but has chosen to ignore the one saving grace about the whole situation – people are reading. As a wise aphorism goes ‘A non-reader holds no advantage over someone who cannot read at all.’
When I worked as a librarian, I sometimes wondered at the choices that people made when borrowing books – but at least they were reading. If they started with something that wasn’t very challenging, then they might move onto a novel that made them think.
Mind you, some readers take their devotion to an author to extremes. I once knew a man who read only Stephen King stories, and he collected them in all of their different editions, books covers and foreign language versions. He had a room devoted to them, with thousands of books lining the walls. It was like being in a sinister temple.
It reminded me of a joke: A man goes into a pub and orders a stiff drink from the barman. He looks depressed, so the barman asks him what the problem is. The man replies: “My wife left me, and all because I like cheese sandwiches.” The barman is puzzled, replying “But there’s nothing wrong with cheese sandwiches. I quite like them myself – cheese and onion, cheese and tomato, cheese and pickle – lovely.” The drinker’s face lights up: “Wonderful – you understand – would you like to come back to my place, and see my collection? I’ve got hundreds!”