Inevitably, this being “World” Book Day in the UK and Ireland, some bright spark in the media thought this would be a good time to do some more controversy farming on the subject of ebooks. Stepping up to the plate as designated outrage merchant is Fay Weldon, who opined in The Independent that authors should write specially dumbed down versions of their books for release as ebooks because people who read such things can’t be expected to be as intelligent as those who read paper.
Yes, well. The less said about that the better. However, I do have an ebook that I want to bring to your attention, because it makes brilliant use of the format.
I have not seen a physical copy of the new 3rd Edition of The Anime Encyclopedia, but I expect it to be huge because Amazon tells me that it is 1160 pages. They don’t give a weight, but it is 9.2″ tall and 2.5″ thick. Reading it in bed would probably give you a wrist injury. In any case, the price of the paper edition is over $80 (though it may be cheaper in the USA as I’m probably getting stung for VAT). In contrast the Kindle edition is a bargain at under $18, and is in some ways a much better book.
Why? Because it is cross-referenced with hyperlinks. So if you go to the section on Sailor Moon you will find links to everything from other works by Naoko Takeuchi to the inevitable erotic parody of the series (Venus Five, for those of you sufficiently desperate to go and look for it). General entries such as “Science Fiction” or “Wartime Anime” inevitably contain heaps of links. As someone who has edited ebooks, I am well aware of the vast amount of work involved in producing something like this, and am delighted to see it has been done.
Of course both books contain the fabulously erudite and often cutting text provided by Helen McCarthy and Jonathan Clements. I naturally headed straight for the Sailor Moon entry to see what they had to say about the initial US releases. I was not disappointed:
With reincarnation a given, the show is unafraid of death; the first season closes with a harrowing assault on the icy lair of the evil Queen Beryl, in which the entire cast is killed off (albeit temporarily). Needless to say, the sanitized U.S. release unconvincingly pretends they have merely been detained elsewhere.
You can spend ages just flicking through the book and following links. I’m by no means qualified to judge the content, but I know Helen and Jonathan and have great respect for their knowledge.
I am also reminded that I really need to get a copy of Wandering Son, one of the few animes to actually address the issue of real trans people rather than using gender-swapping as a plot device or joke. (I am likely to thump the next person who tells me that Ranma 1/2 is a story about a trans kid.) The entry for Wandering Son is very positive from the artistic point of view, and when it comes to the subject matter McCarthy & Clements say:
This is a magical series, one of very few to address the issues facing transgender or gender-conflicted children with the respect and love they deserve, but so rarely find.
Yeah, if you have any interest in anime, buy this book in electronic form. It is a bargain for all sorts of reasons.