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I have met the future (of books), and it is digital

Everyone who cares passionately about books is talking about the death of publishing. Because Amazon makes it so easy and cheap to self-publish. Because of e-books. Because of Google Books. And let me tell you, not many kids at my school have e-readers yet, but some of them do, and most of those who do are avid readers and some of them are in FOURTH GRADE.

I recently read my first e-book. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, and it’s so good I bought a copy for our middle school library. I can already name some girls who are going to love reading Seraphina in that shiny library-bound copy. Myself, I read it on my iPhone, because neither my public nor my school library had it and it’s up for the Andre Norton Award and I get to vote (!!!)

Buying Seraphina for my phone didn’t cut the cost much, but here in our little Far West End homestead we’re in a sort of limbo about selling the house, with half our books in storage. I couldn’t justify buying a physical copy, so I settled for the digital. Truthfully, it wasn’t much fun to read an entire novel on a 3.5” screen, but the book was good and I survived.

And started thinking seriously (quelle horreur) about buying a Kindle. To my dismay, when I looked at the Kindles at Staples I found they don’t have the cute little page-turny thing my iBook reader has. (As you drag your finger over the screen, the page curls up and turns over.)

I want the page turny thing!

Which just goes to show I’m not a digital native. If one of the kids I teach wants a page-turny thing for her e-reader, it’s because it’s a fun special effect, not because kids long, in the depths of their young souls, for the sight of a turning page. They just think, cool, dude. The page turns.

Oh, the humanity.

Still, I write YA, so these are my readers. (As well as my students.) And much as Luddite writers like me shiver at the thought, reading pages on a screen is still reading pages. You start on page one, you go forward, you skip back, and it’s still, screen by screen, pages. The book as we know it is not dead yet. In themselves, screens will not change the structure of Story.

But something wicked this way comes.

Because the next generation of Story, and we’re not there yet, but it’s coming, will be radically different. It will still be Story. But it will tell itself in very different ways. And that is very scary to people like me.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Stay tuned.