Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dear Reader - Paul Fournel

A book that could be summarised as being about a man who reads a lot of books about boys meeting girls, or sometimes girls meeting boys, who himself meets an e reader. Or as the inside cover has it "...a wry, affectionate look at the world of publishing, books and authors...a very funny, moving story about the passing of the old and the excitement of the new."

It was originally published in French in 2012, translated and published by Pushkin in 2014 so is fairly contemporary but perhaps because it deals so specifically with a moment in publishing history it already feels like, well, like history. Robert Dubois has spent his career refining, amongst other things, how he reads a paper manuscript. The advent of his reader is discombobulating but eventually they become used to each other. At which point it's replaced with an upgrade.

I read this book at the same time as a clutch of media articles about how well Waterstones is doing selling books on the high street and how ebook sales have plateaued which added to the sense of reading about a moment that had already passed - 'Dear Reader' has plenty of young people getting very excited about the possibilities of various apps and a corresponding number of middle aged people who range from baffled to entranced by the new technology.

My own feeling about e readers is that they're not for me, partly because it feels like technology destined to go the way if the mini disk and I resent the pressure to upgrade an expensive device every few years and mostly because I like books. I like them as objects, I like looking at a shelf of them, I love going out to shop for them, and all of that is before I even get to content.

Like Dubois in this book I have come to see the point of e readers even if I will never own one. This is an engaging snapshot of the publishing industry as it catches up with the possibilities of new technologies, it's also a book that gently nudges it's reader to consider their own relationship with books both for their contents and as possessions.

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