Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ebooks vs Pbooks

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For someone who has long been an advocate for the digital and the potential the new technologies bring to us for finding new ways to tell stories, I took my time when it came to getting an ereader.

Although I have no doubt about the convenience of reading books on an ereader, and while I’m optimistic about the potential for digitisation to bring greater numbers of readers to a larger variety of stories, I’ve been much more interested in thinking about writing for new platforms than I have been in the paper-under-glass approach to the digital that is inherent in any ereader.

But just before Christmas I got my first device for ereading. And I’ve found the transition from reading novels in print to reading novels on the device has been seamless. The device I own makes reading on screen a pleasure – the touchscreen is responsive and rapid and the books I’ve read it on do not feel as though they’d been altered by the process of digitisation.

However, reading on the electronic device has altered the way I feel about the books I read in print. For one thing, it’s made me think again about pbook (as opposed to ebook) production standards. Most books are just books – they have paper, they have covers, they have text on the page. Some fall apart if you open them up too widely. Reading these books as digital files is neither here nor there – what I’m after is the story, and the writing.

On the other hand, there are some books where the book itself – the print artefact – is full of delicious bookishness, where the production values, and the care taken over these values, is higher than most books. I noticed this first with Cordelia Strube’s Lemon, published by Coach House Books. This novel is printed on lovely paper, textured, almost lined, nice and thick. The same goes for another Coach House Books novel, The Drifts, by Thom Vernon. And then there are two editions I’ve been sent by The Porcupine’s Quill, a small press – Mystery Stories, by David Helwig, and My Other Women, by Pauline Carey. I haven’t read these books yet, but The Porcupine’s Quill books, with their well-designed layout, and their endpapers, are appealing physical artefacts.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Kate Pullinger

Kate Pullinger writes for both print and digital platforms. In 2009 her novel The Mistress of Nothing won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Her prize-winning digital fiction projects, Inanimate Alice and Flight Paths: A Networked Novel, have reached audiences around the world.

Go to Kate Pullinger’s Author Page