I consider myself to be a fairly creative person. I have built video games, websites, mobile apps, posters, videos, computer animations, and Lego every-things. I understand typesetting, color theory, computer architecture, and user interaction. I am a product of the technology age, and have been riding the wave ever since the Atari 2600. So why would I be working, now, on a book? This is probably the most low-tech and least flashy thing I have ever worked on.
One could argue that movies are easily the best medium to distribute stories to the masses. Surely they are the most approachable. You don’t even need to be able to read to watch a movie. They are generally quick (under 2 hours), engaging, and passive. The viewer can in most cases just sit back and enjoy the ride. How can anything improve on that?
Hold on. When I am watching a movie, I am a mere observer. I am being fed information and just looking through a window onto the deeds of the hero. It may be cool to watch, but wouldn’t it be better if I was the hero? This is exactly why games are better than movies. They place me, the viewer, into the role of the hero and the story is about me, about what I do. Granted there are generally confines to this and the designers can tell an actual story, but I feel like it’s about me, I am the glue that keeps it all together.
Also, the average game these days takes between 20 and 80 hours to complete. Compare that to a 2-hour movie. If a movie is $12 a seat, the entertainment cost is $6 per hour. For a $60 game, the entertainment cost is between 75 cents and $3 per hour. That’s a great value! I won’t even get into the typical 99 cent mobile game, the value there is pretty much unbeatable.
Given all the benefits we get with movies and games, why would I think books are better? First, no matter how many millions of dollars are spent on computer generated graphics and special effects (e.g. Avatar), nothing visual can ever exceed my own imagination.
Here is the real reason books are better than these other forms of media: they are timeless. I even underlined that for effect. As far as books go, they are about as low-tech as you can possibly get. I know they are all digital now and we read them on our Kindle or iPhone, but that is not a requirement. You can get the same exact experience reading them on a piece of papyrus, or a gold plate.
Movies, however, require technology. And as this technology improves the quality of the experience gets noticeably better. Let me ask you, when was the last time you watched a black and white movie? Unless you are in film school, or have a desire to trace the lineage of modern film, probably not since TVs were in black and white (and thus, for some of you, the answer is probably ‘never’). So herein lies the problem with movies, once technology advances, the old style of movies are no longer engaging. First we had color, then we had high definition, now we have 3D, and we are on the cusp of having immersive movies where you are "inside the movie", also called 360 degree video or VR Cinema. If you want to preview what I am referring to without any special hardware, check out Littlstar.
The oldest known book is the Etruscan Gold Book which is 2,673 years old. That is staying power. You can still read this book, provided you understand the language, several millennia later. You don’t need anything special to consume the media. It still communicates an identical experience as on the day it was created.
Speaking of language, yes, these can be lost to time, or even evolve, so that older works are unreadable. I personally have difficulty reading Shakespeare. The good news is that most works considered of exceptional merit get upgraded to modern language. Take the Bible as the most successful example. Even the works of Shakespeare have been modernized as in this version of The Tempest.
Call it egotistical. But one of the reasons I am making a book, is I want to make something that has the potential to last. Something my grandchildren can read, and say “I was not alive when he was, but I think I know him just a little bit now.” I will close with an ancient Egyptian quote from 1187 BC which stated:
...Those writers known from the old days, the times just after the gods. Those who foretold what would happen (and did), whose names will endure for eternity. They disappeared when they finished their lives, and all their kindred forgotten. They did not build pyramids in bronze with gravestones of iron from heaven. They did not think to leave a patrimony made of children who would give their names distinction, rather they formed a progeny by means of writing and in the books of wisdom they left...