The other night in Melbourne, Australia (May 6th 2015), I went to see you at the Atheneum theatre.
I was enthralled.
You were awesome, and you were personally inspiring.
I loved your relaxed laid-back (Australian?) attitude. I loved your answers to the interviewer’s questions. I loved how you extended the questions from the audience and answered more than you were asked. And I loved how you overruled the presenter and asked for one more question when he had already done that. So great. So fantastic. Such a wonderful evening.
Can I make a comment or two, though?
As mentioned your generous donations to independent book-stores are to be applauded.
In 2014, James gave away over a million dollars to book-stores across the USA.
In 2015, James Patterson will continue to support independent book-stores in innovative ways and will champion a new initiative centred on getting our kids reading and supporting school libraries.
Now this is a fantastic initiative, but it made me think of the horse and cart.
Back in the day, horses used to pull all sorts of vehicles which were used for transport of goods and passengers in pretty much all countries of the world.
A complete set of industries grew up around this means of transport. Such as farriers, carriage makers, stables and stable hands, grooms, horse-shoe and horse-shoe nail manufacturers, carriage wheel makers and many more. And of course manure collectors. Not to mention the farmers who grew the food these magnificent beasts ate so they could toil all day toting people and packages across our fair cities. Although some of these cities may not have been all that fair much of the time. But your stories cover some of this evil doing.
Anyway there came a time when some malcontent invented a motorised vehicle. And once we all got over the fact that these mechanical beasts could and should be allowed to move faster than walking pace the industry blossomed.
We could now go further and faster, in more comfort and carry more weight than ever before. Progress, I hear you say. A fantastic thing is progress and these newfangled inventions. True.
But what of the poor people and animals mentioned previously who relied on the earlier tried and true methods of transport? Their existence and their livelihood depended on this now old fashioned and outdated technology. What about them?
Well, I personally don't know what happened on a day to day or month to month basis, nor how long a transition period there was, but transition certainly took place. Now the only 'horse-dawn carriages' are in places like Melbourne as tourist attractions.
Cars and trucks (and trains and planes as well, but let's not extend our argument too far) have completely taken over the role of these quaint methods of conveyance.
Book shops. Ah the wonder. They are such an institution. The shelves and shelves of paper and cardboard, printers ink, glue and sometimes string. The smell of new books, the smell of old books. The chesterfield sofas and crazy bentwood chairs that we happened upon in these oases of almost quiet; full of the soft sounds of riffling paper, and the low murmurings of cajoling voices “Oh My God, will you have a look at this one?” Fantastic. Beautiful, exciting, inspiring and emotionally intense.
Bookshops are the bees knees.
BUT. There is another way to read NOW. We can do it 'online' and on 'portable devices'. The same stories. Even the older ones (the historic, the famous and venerated texts) are all progressively being made available in a digital format. They don't smell. There are no sofas, no booksellers with unbelievable knowledge, (I could say encyclopaedic but that is too trashy), but the end result is the same. The information, the emotions, the feelings, beliefs, the wonderment is all still imprinted on the brain of the reader. We still even call these infidels readers for goodness sake.
We can take 1000's of books with us wherever we go and enjoy them at any time. In the light, in the dark and at all times and all places in between.
In a similar vein to that of old fashioned travel, reading is going to change. We are going to do it differently. We are going to transition, possibly completely, except for tourist curiosities, to the new world.
It is as inevitable as the march of the automobile. Whether it is a good or bad thing is a moot point. IT WILL HAPPEN. IS HAPPENING NOW. AS WE SPEAK.
While I know, James, we all love your passion for book shops, books in general; and we all follow your fights with Jeff Bezos, I wonder if it is all for nothing?
Is it possible your wonderfully generous money might be better spent? Instead of railing against online behemoths, and propping up an institution whose time has come?
Might you be better off spending the money to make online reading better? More accessible to the masses of people who do not read at all or do read but not as much as they might and do not embrace the joys of the electronic media? Easier, more exciting, more fun. More interesting.
Perhaps we could have online book-stores with extra special benefits.
We could have electronic book clubs.
What about huge global discussions about books and the meaning of life. I don't think it really is 42 by the way.
We could have huge webinars with everyone being able to see and hear what I did the other night. You know what I mean. You. Or other famous or infamous - read E L James) authors on Skype, in our own lounge rooms, our cars, our … (no I won't go there.)
They could be streamed, or recorded or both. Live questions could be asked and answered. Visuals and videos could be included.
Collaborative writing classes and group readings could happen.
Training in writing and other stuff related to reading might be the go
Authors reading their books for children. (So they can still have their nightly story even if their parents can't or won't do it for them.) Refer the following:
“Could snuggling up in bed and reading a bedtime story to your children ever be a bad thing? An ABC Radio National program about whether 'Having a loving family is an unfair advantage' has questioned whether bedtime reading is causing an uneven playing field for more unfortunate children. British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi the benefits of the time-honoured custom were greater than a private school education.”
The worlds of writing and reading could collide with a bang greater than all the atomic bombs in the universe.
Books and reading could be even more important than ever before. A different kind of book experience.
No longer little out of the way places you can only get to on your next trip to NYC.
No longer elitist but for all.
No longer expensive books where the publisher takes more money from the sale than the creator of the work itself. (Perhaps that is a problem currently with Amazon, but there is no real competition is there?)
Free books for specific purposes/readers/topics
Note I'm not suggesting books are off the agenda, just the method of getting them to the reader. A change in the delivery mechanism.
It has started.
Perhaps you James, and/or other readers or writers can come up with some more new and innovative ways to make the electronic delivery of books better, more accessible, easier, more effective.
Perhaps there is even another as of now completely unheard of way of getting books to the reader?
Think about it. Those who can adapt best, survive. Those who cannot become extinct. Darwin discovered this scientific truth many moons ago, It is still as true now as it was then.