TEC attends "Fiction in the Age of e-Books" discussion at Luminato

by Nadine Bachan

Published at 2010-06-24


On Saturday June 19, TEC editors Shealah, Nadine, and Jennifer Day (our on-call fiction editor) attended Fiction in the Age of e-Books, a debate presented by Luminato at the Isabel Bader Theatre.


The moderator was Scott Stossel, the deputy editor of The Atlantic. He also sat on the panel as a representative of “the editor.” The remaining panellists represented three other groups involved in fiction:


  • the authors – Paul Theroux, author of over 25 books including The Mosquito Coast,and Katherine Grovier, Canadian novelist and author of the recently published The Ghost Brush
  • the publisher – Sarah MacLachlan, publisher of Anansi Press
  • the retailer – Joel Silver, president of Indigo Books

Theroux expressed his extreme dislike of the e-Book and of innovations that he felt weakened the art of writing (this included flash fiction, the Internet, and typing on the computer). Most of the audience chuckled as Theroux spoke over his fellow panellists, often rambling off into amusing tangents which expressed his conviction that most people “simply don’t read.”


Grovier spoke little, but did express her concern that electronic publications could result in massive copyright infringement, especially when one audience member championed the idea of students pulling apart chunks of text and using them for their own creativity.


MacLachlan was a supporter of the e-Book. While it “will never replace the beauty and appeal of the old-fashioned codex,” she has found the e-Reader to be an amazing tool. As a publisher, she receives unsolicited manuscripts every week. Downloading them all onto her Kobo makes reading through them much easier.


Silver, like Grovier, was very quiet. He appeared to be as diplomatic as possible and, as the representative of the retailer, is optimistic that the e-Book will make way for a world of new possibilities in bookselling and bookstores.


Stossel posed a few questions throughout the debate, but it was the first question about an audience survey that was most intriguing:


How many of you own an e-Reader? [10–15 people]

How many of you are considering buying one? [10–15 people]       

How many of you wouldn't be caught dead reading one? [everyone else]


By the end of the debate it seemed no one, including the panellists, had changed their opinion. Will the e-Book replace the traditional printed text? That is one of the many questions left unanswered.


panellists in the e-Bokk discussion