shopping raven
shopping raven

Mythology, Zeus, the Raven, and the Future of the Written Word

Technology seems to be advancing faster than we can keep up with it in these modern times. With bookstores closing and kindles and iPads flying off the shelves, we have to wonder how it will change the world of print. It is certainly affecting the way books are read. Will this technology impact the way books are written? Will the interactive features that these types of “e readers” create an audience with expectations for something more in their books? And if so, what does those features mean for the future of literature?

The option to look an unknown word up in the dictionary instantly is a handy feature available on e-readers and it does not seem too invasive as far as the reading experience goes. Some children’s books offer features like clicking on a picture to see it come to life or playing interactive games on a page of the book. While this doesn’t seem like a likely option for adult literature, the technology is there and it makes one wonder if it will have any impact on publishing and more importantly, the way books are written and read.

Imagine reading Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Raven, with the option of clicking on the bird and hearing him recite his famous words, “Nevermore.” Or maybe some audio features could be available complete with spooky sounds like the wind rapping at the pains outside and maybe a little creepy music? If alive today, Edgar Allan Poe may cringe at the thought, but the fact is these are possibilities. Publishers, naturally focused on selling books and making a profit, would have to be considering all of these possibilities in order to figure out how to continue to sell books. Considering the amount of time we all spend in front of screens (television, computer, movie) don’t e-readers bring with them a certain expectation? Some of the features we are so accustomed to in having on all of our many screens, would they be expected now that we are bringing book reading to a screen?

If these features are eventually expected and planned for, authors would not be able to help but consider them while writing. Just as television and film changed the way (play) scripts were written, e-readers could change the way books are written. Will we be forced to watch advertisements between chapters? Or will we see “product placement” in literature and be given the option to click on said product and get sent directly to a shopping link? You could be reading about Zeus in a book on mythology when a sidebar pops up: “Get Zeus’d with Zeus Juice, a new power drink sent from the gods!” Extreme? Maybe. Possible. Maybe. Something to think about while you flip through the pages of your e-reader and consider what lies ahead for the future of publishing. Some writers have already started to wonder about the rapid advance of technology and its effects on how we think, learn, feel, and experience the world. Brave New World describes a dystopia where people live in perfect, plush comfort, their senses constantly pleasured, their every thought and feeling channeled in a way where effort and discomfort of any kind, by it emotional, physical or cerebral, are discouraged. Would a person who was conditioned to this mode of thought and life ever understand the horror experienced by the narrator in The Raven or the psychological turmoil explored by Shakespeare in Hamlet? Unlikely.

Another thing to look at the use of the internet and publishing. Consider Twitter. (Sorry.) Some writers have experimented with using Twitter to put their novel out. In our seemingly short-attention span culture will we want to read in tiny bites rather than sit with a book for hours? All strange and frightening thoughts when we, as readers, appreciate the many aspects of simply sitting down and reading a book for pleasure, slowly flipping through the tangible pages, appreciating and contemplating the words on each one.

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