“Old-school publisher meets e-reader: chaos ensues.
There’s a lot of good to be said about publishing, mainly about the food. The books, though – Robert Dubois feels as if he’s read the books, but still they keep coming back to him, the same old books just by new authors. Maybe he’s ready to settle into the end of his career, like it’s a tipsy afternoon after a working lunch. But then he is confronted with a gift: a piece of technology, a gizmo, a reader…
Dear Reader takes a wry, affectionate look at the world of publishing, books and authors, and is a very funny, moving story about the passing of the old and the excitement of the new.” (Pushkin Press)
Books about books and reading are probably my favourite kind of book. I think they’re a favourite of just about any voracious reader, perhaps because these particular books speak directly to the book nerd within us and we can see ourselves reflected in the pages or, literally, in the screen if you’re using an eReader. Dear Reader by Paul Fournel is certainly no exception and is one of those books you will pick up and become smitten by within the first few pages.
The life of Robert Dubois noticeably begins to change when he is given an eReader on which he has to read new manuscripts, rather than the hard copy. His “dear reader”, as he affectionately calls it, is foreign and inconvenient to him at first. It’s a reminder that his life of reading and publishing is changed and with this new reading instrument he can no longer avoid that change.
As a narrator, Robert is a complete joy to read. He is endearing, funny, and refreshingly real. He has concerns and hopes just like everyone else, and Paul Fournel seems to have taken care to not over dramatise Robert’s life, and to keep it as normal as possible. My favourite thing about him are his shrewd, and at times hilarious, observations about his new way of reading. Take this moment after Robert has asked his local butcher to weigh his new eReader:
“So that’s the final weight of world literature as it sits in René’s fat red fingers. 730 grams. Cervantes, Hugo, Dickens, and Proust make just 730 grams. Want to throw in Perec? 730 grams. Rilke as well? Just 730 grams.”
Ironically (or coincidentally?), my copy of Dear Reader is in eBook form and as such I read it on an iPad. At that particular moment I couldn’t help but wonder what the weight of all my eBooks would be if they were in physical form.
While a large portion of the book is about the changes in the publishing industry and the changing needs of readers, it also acted as a reminder to me of how much I love, almost more than anything else, to read an actual book in all its papery glory. While the last six months have seen me reading digital copies more frequently, their convenience will never compare to physical books.
I feel Fournel has perfectly encapsulated the life of the reader in the digital world. On more than one occasion I nodded my head and thought to myself, “Yes – that’s so true”. I giggled a lot, I cried a little bit, and got a bit angry sometimes. Dear Reader is a book for readers and by the time you get to the end, you might feel like you’ve finished reading a book that ‘gets you’.