Monday, January 30, 2012

Jonathan Franzen's Nonsense about Ebooks

In an article published in The Telegraph online, author Jonathan Franzen attempts to make the point that somehow ebooks will lead to the downfall of society. Franzen says ebooks have no permanence and therefore cannot be equated in any way to a printed book. Apparently he's never heard of the concept called fire but then he does seem to be a man who's come forth from an age far more rigid and stupid than the one we currently reside in.

Most will know Franzen as the man who poo-pooed Oprah's Book Club saying he didn't want his book included in it for fear it was painted with the wrong brush. My hatred for such literary snobbishness is well known. And he continues in this vein with this gem-

Link"I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change."

The point here being that readers of ebooks are not serious readers, they are something less than he and his pals- the white, western, male gang who control the gates of the literary world.
The reactionary Franzen goes on to say:

"I think the combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control. If you go to Europe, politicians don’t matter. "

And not only is the impermanence of an ebook bad for literature, its technology (and all other technology) will lead to the downfall of the world. Yeah right. That's the problem. I won't even touch on why politicians are suppose to matter in a democracy where people are supposed to be at the centre. Another discussion all together.

I see things from a different angle. Ebooks and the internet are leveling a VERY uneven playing field and people like Mr Franzen are shaking in their boots, rightly so. Technology is allowing freedom and democracy to push its way into the publishing arena. I don't see any way that is a bad thing.

Perhaps you have another view???? Link


Sue Guiney said...

very, very interesting! The idea of permanence in literature -- or anything -- is such a bugaboo. There is not permanence, as you point out. And Frantzen's need for it says more about his ego than anything else, I think.

Mack said...

Pretentious twaddle. I'm a librarian at one of the oldest universities in the US and certainly have an appreciation for the permanence of print. My desk at home has towering stacks of books surrounding it. I also own 3 ebook readers and will probably add a Kindle fire within the year. As you point out, ebooks and the internet are leveling a very uneven playing field. ebooks are giving new life to books that might otherwise be inaccessible. I purchased a Sony ereader specifically so that I could download from and read books not available to me in print in the US. To consider ebook readers less serious is pretty insulting. Does Franzen have less respect for someone who reads one of his books on a Kindle? Oh, and print does not equal permanence in any case. Some bindings will last a very long time. Mass market paperbacks, not so much.

Helen Ginger said...

I've never read Franzen, and reading these quotes, I'm not inclined to do so. Print books won't last forever. They eventually deteriorate. Otherwise, we'd have all the books from centuries ago instead of the few that remain. Pretentious nincompoop.

Lauri said...

Sue- I agree what is permanence in print. Most books are out of print within a year.

Mack- You make an excellent point, many things destroy books. And yes, African writers who write on the continent have an impossible task getting their books distributed outside. The cost of shipping a paper book from Botswana makes it impossible. Everytime I speak I speak about the fact that ebooks are going to help African writers immensely, more than American and European writers who don't have the huge distribution hurdles we have. Also, many African countries don't have well connected trade publishers. For example in Botswana we have no trade publishers. Writers here are stuck. Ebooks and Amazon's KDP are really a godsend for us.

Helen- I have to admit I've read none of Franzen's books. After the nonsense with the first book and Oprah I just see him as a pretentious twat. Then of course there was the big fight about him between Piccoult and Wiener on one side and the NYT on the other. Basically saying he is over rated and over loved unjustifiably. There are so many books I want to read and so little time. I don't see a reason to support someone like this.

Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living said...

Great post Lauri and I think those who say what Frantzen says are scared because they don't know how to follow social media. It takes effort to keep up with changes, he might need a coach to help him learn that he has no choice, and that e-readers are multiplying. I now walk my dog with my Samsung Tablet and read books online. I can pick which one I want to read as I'm walking.

Anonymous said...

I think Franzen ia a great writer but he is also a bit of a tosser. He is 52 so he is on the cusp of that generation who are not au fait with modern social media networks, e-publishing and so on. He is also a bit of a traditionalist and is resistant to reinvention. It could also just be a big publicity stunt on his part to get attention and sell more books (pardon my cynicism).

Whatever it is, I think it is very important now to acknowledge the influence and significance of digital media. It's the way of the future, the way of the present and I suspect, is here to stay.

Mack has made a very valuable point and that is 'ebooks are giving new life to books that might otherwise be inaccessible.' That is a wonderful thing, a precious thing.

And one of the most important things for me is that e-books save paper and trees. Hallelujah!!

Franzen better get witht he program or he might find his future only lies in a dusty remainder bin....

Lauri said...

The other issue of course is ebooks give books an indefinite shelf life unlike paper books.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I think Ebooks is one of the best sources for getting lots of information through online. It is beneficial to use because it's available in free cost so all people can easily download it from the web. We can use it in any kind of device like iPhone, computer, laptop, cell phone etc.