New Technologies and reading without knowing when a book ends

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Taramoc, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    Some time ago, I bought an e-book on my e-reader that didn't have an indication on every screen of how may pages were left (the usual "10 of 345" label).

    Reading was an interesting experience, because I quickly lost track of where I was, and I had no idea how close I was to the end of the book. Was it the next twist I encountered the final one (it was a mystery)? Or there was yet another culprit waiting to reveal himself?

    A few weeks later, I listened to an audio book on my PC (while I was doing a menial repetitive task) and again soon I wasn't quite sure how long was going to be before the end of the 10+ hours recording. This time, though, I went out of my way to make sure I wouldn't find out. I found the uncertainty of not knowing if the story would end soon or not added to the experience.

    As a writer, I think that I could use that uncertainty to tease the reader in some of my work, adding another dimension to the experience. I wonder if at some point, we would be able to write (and publish) something with that option, expressly stopping the reader from knowing how close he/she is to the last page.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  2. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Do I get to use a bookmark? Because otherwise, no.
     
  3. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    Oh yes, bookmarks are definitively allowed. Asking someone to read/listen to a book in one seating would be crazy.
     
  4. CMTheAuthor

    CMTheAuthor Life is fantastic, yes?

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    Unless you're someone like me, who can devour 500-page novels in about two hours. (And, no, I never took any speed reading classes. I'm just wired that way.)

    But yeah, that's both an advantage and a disadvantage of specific mediums. For example, I know some people who played video games who have gotten near the end of the story (without knowing it), then given up because they grew bored, despite being very close to finishing. So, ultimately the measure of whether something like this would succeed or fail would depend on a combination of the individual patience of the readers and how well the story is written in general. If either one is lacking, you'll have people setting your book aside and not coming back.
     
  5. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    CM, I agree. As every tool, it needs to be used properly, or the reader will be turned off just as they would have if you had wrote a boring plot or cardboard characters.

    What I'm curious about is from the writer's perspective. Could this option of being able to keep the reader in the dark about the length of the book be useful to you? Or at least intriguing enough to think about it?
     
  6. zachariah

    zachariah Speaks fluent Bawehrf

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    I watch some sporting events online where I don't know the result but I know how long the video is; this often makes for poor viewing because the time for a two-set match is always around an hour but a three-set match is about half an hour longer. If I know the video is an hour then I know whoever wins the first set will go on to win the match, so almost half the video becomes, if not pointless, then certainly less exciting than it would have been if I didn't know the length beforehand.

    It's not exactly the same with books or stories in any other medium, but it is similar, particularly as you know with certain structures and stories that it's pretty much time for the end when certain things happen. I can't think of any real-world circumstance where I would actively seek out the 'no page number' option, and even if I did, I'd probably turn it off and check how far it was to the end, if it was late at night and I really wanted to finish the story.
     
  7. Window Bar

    Window Bar We Read for Light

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    With an e-book, it would be pretty easy to do: Simply add two hundred pages of redundancy and appendices after "The End." For all practical purposes, I find myself tricked even by paper-'n-ink books if the end is packed with appendices.
     
  8. Michael B

    Michael B Doomfarer

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    Same here. Also, I don't care how long a book takes to read when I start it, only when I want to finish the last few pages before I go to bed.