Writing in The Guardian, Stuart Kelly has proposed a radical idea: that eBooks should be treated as a different genre than regular print books. Why? The fantastic possibilities of eBooks shouldn’t be bound (haha) to the confines of print and pages. In short, Kelly calls for something that proponents of eBooks have been saying for a while: let’s treat it like a bold new invention, rather than a standard digital copy of a physical book.
Of course, there are always going to be eBooks that closely mimic a regular physical book. eBooks based on older works, or eBooks that would like to closely mimic a physical one because of market reasons (think of Harry Potter — you only want one version running around, really). But the possibilities that eBooks (as a genre) present have yet to be fully explored.
For one, we don’t read eBooks like we read a physical book. Physical books have a monopoly on our attention and also don’t receive information from us. They are static. eBooks are often read as one choice among many of digital applications, with the ability to be amended, personalized, and improved.
An eBook that allows an author to change section, to move up plot points depending on reader input, to change the entire setting based on a reader’s location — that is a wholly different genre than that of regular books, and is obviously where we’re heading (some of the more adventurous of us). Not only that, but eBooks can be constantly updated to provide for further coverage of a current event (or a fictional one). Imagine an eBook that updates the details of a giant, mythical battle, as it was happening. It would basically be a real-time report of total fiction. In other words, incredibly exciting!
I believe that eBooks will become their own genre, much in the way that board games became video games. First, they were limited facsimiles of the original, then they became immersive and even more user-oriented. While some eBooks will remain very much similar to our concept of a regular book now (as they should), enhanced eBooks will become their own genre, replete with all the technological wizardry and components that the medium (tablets, computers, phones, etc.) can afford.
We have barely begun to scratch the surface of what eBooks can do, and a call to think of eBooks as something wholly different from our romantic notion of the hardback will lead us to some very interesting (and cool) places.
As authors, what do you think about eBooks as their own genre?