Monday, February 04, 2013
Poetry ebooks: are you really satisfied?
As many of us already know, ebook readers are fantastic in that they allow us to go mobile with large volumes of large prose works (novels, non-fiction that doesn't rely on graphic content, etc). But when it comes to poetry, things can turn a bit ugly.
Who doesn't squirm, for instance, when the line- or stanza-breaks of a favourite poem are mangled by the prose-fixated default formatting of their favourite ebook reader. And how many even avid poetry readers, so often disappointed by our local bricks-'n'-mortar bookstore, are willing to surrender this most distinguishing physical attribute of the poem in order to have its nuts and bolts (however jumbled up) available in a convenient, portable form. (Our own recent foray into all-digital poetry publishing on Apple's iBooks platform -- in the form of the anthology Airborne: Poetry from Ireland -- was much more reassuring than other digital poetry experiments, due to that platform's offering publisher/poets strict control over the appearance of their work. That said, it seems clear that iBooks, as yet at least, accounts for only a small section of the overall ebook readership.)
Prompting these thoughts is an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal ('Don't Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay: http://tinyurl.com/av28kmm) on the rise (and first signs of a fall?) in the popularity of ebooks. Whatever the truth of the claim (and one has to be careful about equating a slow-down in the sales of ebook readers with a falling-off of interest in ebooks themselves), it does raise an important question: As a poetry reader, avid or just occasional, in an ideal world what form would you like your next poetry book or magazine purchase to take? Are you like us, still inclined to search out hard copies of the books we want to really engage with but happy to read individual poems, and even the occasional anthology, in a more fluid (and sometimes frustrating) form?
It would be interesting to hear.