At the beginning of July, Ryu Murakami announced that he would be publishing his new book, A Singing Whale, with Apple as an exclusive iPad download. This is not ‘just an eBook’ either: with video content and a soundtrack by Oscar-winning Ryuichi Sakamoto (who has collaborated with one of my favourite contemporary artists, Carsten Nicolai aka Alva Noto), this book will be unlike anything else we’ve ‘read’ before and I’ll certainly be adding to my reading list to give it a go (not that I have an iPad. Yet).
However, as technology progresses and we are offered new and innovative forms of reading, what does this mean for the publishing industry? As intriguing and exciting as Ryu Murakami’s deal with Apple is, he has left his publisher in the dust and gone straight to the technology giant to get his new book to readers. Not so bad if it’s just him, perhaps, but what if there are many authors that follow hot on his heels (and I think there will probably be a fair few)? It’s a worrying thought but, just maybe, we’ll see the world of reading develop more fully from a beleif that only one form of publishing can exist to realising that there are different markets and that both eBooks (especially those that are complemented by audio and visual elements) and proper books (if I dare call them that) can exist together, each offering different things: we’ll have eBooks and paper books, not one or the other; the sphere of reading may open up, particularly if technology is able to engage with different readers and bring them to the world of literature by new means. I don’t think that my desire to read A Singing Whale will in any way change the fact that I love to read a good novel with pages.
Maybe this won’t signal the beginning of the end but rather the beginning of a new beginning for reading, one that encompasses technology and tradition, and alongside that, if we can continue to encourage more people to be sharing their reading in groups, the reading revolution may be kicking off very differently. Or maybe I’m just hoping for the best of both worlds and in reality, that’s just not possible. Time will tell. And during that time, what will I really spend more time on, reading books or thinking of ways in which I can make money to buy an iPad? One guess.