Author Fay Weldon urged novelists to write less complex, faster-moving versions of their books to please people who use e-readers. Telling an audience at the Bath Literature Festival that writers should “abandon literary dignity” and write novels that were page-turners, Weldon said “writers have to write now for a world where readers are busy, on the move and have little time for contemplation and reflection. The writer has to focus on writing better, cutting to the chase and doing more of the readers’ contemplative work for them.” So no Proust on the Kindle, then? The author of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil proposed that novelists write two versions of the same book. One which resembles “the literary novel (that is, written in contemplative mode with a strong authorial presence and inclined to discuss social and political issues or give advice as to the nature of humanity),” and one which is a “shorter, easier version (a page-turner, plot-heavy and character-rich) which troubles no one with too much thought.”
The Guardian‘s Alison Flood thinks that Weldon has completely misunderstood e-readers, and probably doesn’t own one herself. “I’ve got an e-reader, and these days the majority of my reading is digital – books which, this week, range from Amy Poehler to Sarah Perry to Caroline Kepnes. It’s just the medium; it doesn’t make me a different sort of reader. Books are books. And us e-readers are proper readers, as Weldon surely knows.” I for one think Weldon might be on to something, but only in the case of novelists who aren’t around to write e-books (or any other kind). After all, who wouldn’t love to see a shorter, zippier version of Joyce’s Ulysses written by Dan Brown? He could call it The Bloomsday Conundrum. Or Nora Roberts take on George Eliot’s Middlemarch?