The Online Novel – Controlled Interaction or Ladened Distraction?

by Jasia Carroll-Woolery

Online Texts – Interaction or Distraction?

Now, I wil l be the first to admit that I vastly prefer the paperback novel compared to the digitized “book emulator”, or ebook. There’s something oh-so undeniably satisfying as seeing the rainbow collection of the Harry Potter books sitting on my bookshelf, well maintained and arranged, as I open my laptop and proceed to watch the movie instead.

ron-face

What can I say? I’m a sucker for that beautiful face.

But in all seriousness, there is definitely a greater sense of ownership and tangibility and fortitude when I own a physical copy of a text, compared to an intangible and almost loose collection of code stored in the same folder I keep my manga scans, online job postings, and screenshots of Reddit stories on r/relationships before they are deleted and lost even to the WayBack Machine.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-8-57-40-pm

Shoot. Now none will know the fate of finacée [27F] and OP’s [56M] rocky relationship.

Writing has been greatly improved upon since the days of yore, where punctuation featured prominent fluctuation, and the concept of a work needing to “breathe” (in reference to margins, paragraphs, spacing, etc.) was considered illogical. By removing the “I” and bringing the reader into the dialogue, we would eventually arrive at the standard writing seen today in novels, scientific reports, etc. In, for example, the novel, we no longer ramble on about unrelated topics, thus allowing the reader to be easily immersed in our book, with no other conflicting information to drown the conversation out.

Nowadays, however, I feel that we are almost turning back into a bit of a regressive state. We put our dialogue into writing to give it a form of distinction. By creating a sense of uniformity through a distinctive alphabet, spelling, punctuation, uniform typography, structure, formatting, we separate it from the ambiguity common in dialogue, and thus allowing the reader to further delve into a book, paper, etc. by keeping the ideas central and relatable to the reader. By posting blank text of The Colonel Chabert on some old faded-brown background (thinking how incredible and original you are for making your website look like a moldy piece of whole wheat bread), you are now removing it from its traditional medium and hosting it on the same platform that stores Donald Trump’s tweets, thousands of inconsequential memes, and blog posts complaining about how the world is going to end if we lose paperback books.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-8-36-20-pm

Seriously, it’s getting so old, it won’t be long before your website will start to age.

Now, maybe I’m just a distracted person (yes) and couldn’t focus on a moving laser dot even if you shot it in my eye (also yes). But there’s something so exclusively charming to the paper novel, that keeps it from getting cluttered in the messy cluster of strands that is the World Wide Web. I believe by putting a novel (something that is known for a delayed sense of accomplishment, only when completed) it on a medium that is know to give instant gratification (often in the form of cat videos), the novel will begin to lose its dominance and eventually fade into obscurity, like many other forms have writing have, much faster than intended.

Cat Bee.gif

See? Are you not entertained?!

That being said, I do see some merits to the online archiving system. For one, it allows books that are long out of print, or worse, long forgotten, to be introduced to an audience that may otherwise be inaccessible due to a limited printing or general rarity, as well as give a (albeit weak) form of immortality. I think it is important to preserve as many works as humanly possible, so that in the event of possible nuclear annihilation, everything will be saved for the cockroaches to read to their grand-roaches.

cockroach-reading-the-metamorphosis

“And so, my children, one day Gregor woke up that he had been transformed into a magnificent beauty, and his life was infinitely better without his family! The end.”

At the end of the day, I do think that ebooks are the best way to go in terms of the reader and for the sake of preserving the arts (we need all the help we can get), as it does bring the medium of the book back into focus, rather than just a side product on a greater device. I do acknowledge that there is a great need to adapt, and who knows? This change from the physical to the virtual may be just as historically consequentially as deciding to preserve the seemingly eternal dialogue to paper.

I think right now, though, I’m due for a day in Chapters, with a hot Caramel Apple Spice and a dialogue with the latest YA magic novel.

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