BBC News – Author Michael Morpurgo welcomes book technology

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News
Michael Morpurgo Morpurgo’s War Horse is being made for the big screen by Steven Spielberg

The author Michael Morpurgo has said he welcomes the idea of children accessing stories through mobile devices instead of books.

But the former children’s laureate said it was “critical” that technology – such as novels on mobiles – should not be only available to the privileged few.

“When one talks about books what we really mean is stories. We don’t actually mean the physical page which is how we’ve accessed it for hundreds of years,” he said.

Morpurgo has written more than 100 books including Private Peaceful and War Horse – which was turned into a hit West End play. It is about to be made for the big screen by Steven Spielberg.

“Technology is telling us there are other ways of doing this which are every bit as interesting and which the new generation of readers are really taking to – that’s fine,” the author said.

Story telling

He added that it was important that the technology was as widely available as books.

“That’s pretty critical to me. One thing I would never want is to see our libraries close, or that access is only available to those who have fancy machines. That would be retrograde, but I don’t think that’s what happening.”

Morpurgo described technology as an “add-on”.

“I remember when television came along everyone said no-one’s ever going to read a book again – not true. People said the same when videos and DVDs came along.”

Would he mind one of his books appearing as a mobile phone application?

“I wouldn’t mind at all, any more than I’d mind it being a movie,” he said.

“We have to remember stories were never written down in the first place. Books shouldn’t be considered holy texts. When people first came across stories we simply told them. We’ve gone a long way from the oral tradition – that’s probably a mistake.

“It somehow has separated our stories from people and I think if technology can bring them closer then that’s great.”

Morpurgo was the Children’s Laureate in 2003-2005. A stage version of his novel Farm Boy opens at the Edinburgh Festival on 5 August.

Do you any of you read books on mobile devices? How is the experience different from reading traditional paper books? What advantages and disadvantages can you see for reading books in electronic form? Does it make any difference whether the ebooks are fiction or non-fiction?

I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section.

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