When I was hunting around for a manageable text for students of American Studies to read, I drew a blank. The library had weighty volumes of rather jaded-looking tomes which would be unlikely to interest the students – at least the swish set. There were loads of Hemingway but why was he always writing about
or the sea? Of course there was a lot of the musty and dusty on the shelves but
would that do?
YA (young adults) seem less motivated to read today. Libraries are bare spaces where tables yawn. Take-home assignments usually reproduce material cut-and-pasted from the internet (often without an acknowledgement).
Though I had initially thought I’d choose the novel form, I jettisoned the idea as there would be no time to read and appreciate its length. Help was near at hand – at Londa station – when I popped into the ubiquitous bookstall on the platform. I emerged with a collection of stories by Henry James. Henry James? -- the turn of the century American novelist? What was he doing here!
After flipping through the stories – mainly the titles – there remained no doubt about what I would choose. ‘Julia Bride’ published in 1908 was the story of a beautiful American woman previously engaged six times but not proposed to as yet. The short story was about her efforts to find a suitable husband. Perfect for my class. But how do I share one copy for sixteen students? That too of a primary source which was written more than a hundred years ago?
Forays on the internet revealed a web edition of the book uploaded by the
University of Adelaide, South Australia.* Access was made possible by the Creative
Commons Licence by which one may ‘copy, distribute, display and perform the
work’ for non-commercial use, provided one attributes the source. I was also
marveling at the currency of twentieth-century American fiction in South Australia and the
global reach of literature.
I simply made this link available to my students and they were on easy street. Or so I thought. Post the week-long Ganesh break I realized no one had dipped into the link. Blank faces greeted me at class -- which is why before the semester-end exams descend on them I hope to make available some photocopies of the story. Full circle?
I must add that I enjoyed the ebook more than the printed version. The immersion into the experience was more complete I thought and the crisp text in its immaculate font scrolling like there was no tomorrow, made one feel reading was the way to be hip.
Publishers converged on
Goa for a conference on publishing titled Publishing Next from 20-21 September
2013. Close on the heels of this
conference was a seminar hosted by the ,
Pune on ‘The Journey of the Book: From Manuscript to Digital’ from 23-25
September 2013. The future of the book is very much a topic for debate. University of Poona
Published with the title 'A Short Story of Publishing Today' in Gomantak Times, Weekender, Goa, on Sunday 22 September, 2013; Image source: mantex.co(dot)uk, the Metropolitan Museum.