DON’T FORGET THE DIGITAL UNIVERSE...
Hagen Engler, a former FHM editor and an author of a slew of self-published books believes, that “the main threat to books [is] the popularity of reading itself and the shrinking of attention spans. Often people barely have time to watch a 90-minute movie, let alone spare a week to finish a game or even longer for a book”. In Engler’s view, “digital reading hasn’t quite taken off in SA yet. Queries about e-book versions tend to come from overseas (and some still request physical copies). Also, the hierarchy of media seems to make it the pinnacle of achievement for a book to be made into a movie, since that’s apparently where the biggest audience is.”
Engler sees the same symptoms that have affected the magazine industry creeping into book publishing. “It’s only a matter of time before all niche magazine publications are online. Print newspapers seem to shrink in circ [circulation] and then doggedly hold on at a certain point. They perform a social service in their geographical communities, so it’s often quite important that they survive from a political and community point of view. That’s not always the case with magazines, which have more of a psycho-social constituency – easily served online.”
Is the audience’s lowered attention span hurting reading in general? “A story has to be good,” Beukes replies. “What makes a story good is plot plus character plus good