[Originally posted 21 April 09 on the 5NerdsomeWriters collaborative blog.]
Last week I finished reading The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot and I loved it. I loved the main character for her gumption (though she could be irrational at times), her best friend for her fiery spirit, and John for being an all around great guy, even if he lied from the very beginning. I liked watching the story unfold and seeing how a web of lies can ruin things for a character. Most of all, I liked seeing how they entire book was presented through a series of emails. And I do mean the entire book. Not one bit of dialogue or pretty prose outside of those emails interchanged. It meant that we might not get all the details we wanted in a certain situation, but we got to read a book in a new way, something fresh and modern. I'm not saying I want all books to be written in this format--in fact, far from, because I would really hate that--but it was neat to see it here.
As some of you know (because I brag on Twitter...sorry) I'm a beta reader for Jordyn Turney's novel-in-progress Love or Something Like It (LOLSI for short, we realize that is not the correct acronym). Her novel is presented in a very similar way, but I think for a better reason. LOLSI uses not only email, but IM, Facebook, & Twitter as well. Why? Because the main characters are teens and this is how they communicate with each other. These two aren't exactly the first of their kind to come about, there have been others (like Lauren Myracle's TTYL which I want to read soon). Like I mentioned with LOLSI, the format really has to fit the book for it to work, but at the same time, I'm predicting an increase in sales in these kinds of books because they are the social norm for teens and even juvenile readers these days--that's how they understand messages, so why not publish their books in that format? But y'know, if you're writing about 18th century England? I don't think IM is the correct format for your book, just saying.
It just goes to show how technology has a huge effect on the publishing industry and books. Before the printing press the majority of people were illiterate because why should they learn to read when there were no books available? Also, you couldn't be sure of the exact meaning of a text because new copies were made (and often translated) by monks who would change the wording or the meaning to reflect their personal and religious beliefs. Beowulf is a perfect example of that. Even after the printing press, not many knew how to read, it wasn't until the Turks invaded that books and technology returned to the western world (they called them the dark ages for a reason, it was like we went back 1000 years in time, lost a lot of tech & literature). And now books are in decline again, taking a back seat to anything electronic (though ebooks have yet to pass hard copies, thankfully), and someday, who knows? Maybe we won't have books anymore, at least, not in the format we know them as. At the same time, it is equally possible that books will outlast modern technology, seeing how long they've lasted already. Only time will tell.
[On a side note, my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel had some parts that were presented in facebook messages or IM because that's what the characters used. I doubt this book will ever make it to publication though because I doubt I'll ever want to finish it. 2/3rds through the month I started to hate it, soo...yeah. Not gonna happen.]
Okay, that got a little long, but I'm serious when I say it could have been much longer if I talked about all the technological advances (even just the big ones) and historical events that affected publishing and literacy throughout history. I know a lot...on the bright side I'll pass my theatre history test this unit!