The recent publication of my memoir, Sipping from the Nile, My Exodus From Egypt as an eBook has made it instantly available in many formats alongside its hardcover and trade paperback editions. What does this mean?
As I focused more personally on the intense global conversation blooming unchecked on the Internet, I realized that buried in all the cacophony of concern and confusion, the voice least heard is the voice of the writer.
This begs the question: Why do writers write in the first place?
Writers have always written first to tell a story, to share their words and ideas with others. Lost in our love affair with words, we search how best to construct our stories for those we hope will read them. We ally ourselves seamlessly with our inner minstrel. We tell stories at the dinner table. We observe our world and draw from it a personal vision that blossoms into a universal inspiration. We long to connect with our readers. To learn that the words we have written with open heart have reached into the world and touched others.
Most of all, we want to share our stories. We always have, since early days of humanity. A quick flip though the ages tells its own tale. Storytellers shared their stories in a direct line through oral traditions to the great Norse sagas sung by minstrels in the mead halls of the ancients. Next came the exquisitely illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, restricted to the privileged few. Finally came the paradigm shift caused by the invention of the printing press. No longer tales told to a rapt few huddled by peat fires on a cold winter's night, or restricted to an elite, stories came within the reach of multitudes.
The industrial revolution and the invention of the printing press created opportunity, but also distance, changing the minstrel into the writer, and the listener into the reader.
Today, huge economic edifices have arisen like the Tower of Babel, fracturing the average writer's world into a schizophrenic landscape. Teetering off-balance in the fierce winds of change they are trapped and buffeted by the powerful crosswinds of another revolution, one we have been reluctant to recognize as such.
I confess, I love my printed books. Bliss for me is the leisure to curl up in a comfortable chair, the weight and heft of a captivating novel in my hands, immersing myself in the world a skilled storyteller has created. I enjoy the faint rustle of pages turning, the subtle movement of pages stacking up as the tale draws to its close.
I do also own a device. It does not provide the same sensual pleasures. But it enables me to travel with as many books as I desire without breaking my back as I lug my suitcase up the stairs and swing it onto the security belt at the airport. My husband and I, avid readers both, find that audio fills long repetitive car trips with the magic of an engrossing tale. We have been known to arrive at our destination and sit in front of the garage door, engine idling, unwilling to leave the story to take our groceries indoors.
Interestingly, the variety of options is once again allowing writer and reader to face each other, intimately connecting the tellers of tales to those who thirst for the tales they tell.
While many of us gaze disbelievingly at onrushing vistas of digital possibility, reader communities are springing up, writers are being challenged to connect directly into the vast digital universe spreading at their feet. No longer needing to force an untamed wilderness into our own tidy landscapes, we writers are bound only by the richness of our imaginations in order to embrace this world of digital possibility.
Readers get it! Writers get it! Those of us addicted to the power of words can now access our stories in a variety of ways to match time, needs and opportunity. For whether stories and ideas reach us through the crisp pages of a book, through audio, or through the rapidly expanding universe of digital formats and devices, it is the story we care about. It is the voice of the other, reaching into our human isolation and connecting.
As we head at a fast clip into an unimaginable future, we need to keep a clear vision and a firm grip on what had meaning in the past. The desire to shape and share our stories is embedded in our DNA. It is one of the elements that make us human. Whether our stories are captured in a whisper, a song, a book, a Kindle, an e-book or a Sony Reader, it matters only that the communication occurs between writer and reader.
And so I wait, eagerly and with hope, to observe if my printed book holds its own as it jostles for position among its many new cousins.
Going digital has enlarged my world. I welcome the moment.