Monday, March 23, 2009

Breathe Normally

Over on Slate, citing the steep decline of American newspapers as a logical benchmark, Jacob Weisberg is bemoaning what he sees at the inevitable death of printed books in favor of wireless media devices a la “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

However, I don’t buy it.

For one thing, newspapers are virtually worthless. Their intent is to share small bits of information, and be disposed of – typically, in airport bathrooms and commuter trains where they are consumed like gum and spat out. Books, however, require far more concentration to get through and do not require batteries.

Further, many people—like myself—enjoy collecting and displaying books in home-built libraries. It’s fun, colorful, romantic, and dare I say, appeals to the artistic snob in all of us – the only downside being the expense for ever-swelling bookshelves.

So to Mr. Weisberg, I would argue he step back off the ledge. His leather-bound collector’s editions of the Sweet Valley High saga aren’t going anywhere.

2 comments:

Mike Rende said...

Chris,

I agree (somewhat).

Periodicals that are intended for single use are where I've always seen the digital book 'revolution' starting. Personally, it makes me sick to buy something for such a limited life span of use. So I've always thought that magazines and newspapers would be the logical first steps towards our print media going digital.

The technology still hasn't caught up with the format for casual book reading. Even the kindle which is a huge improvement just doesn't replace the tactile pleasure of reading a book.

Our generation also still finds pleasure in a well stocked library. Many of the generation to follow sees any physical media as a waste of space. Your average teen is happy reading much (or all) of their media on devices. (I've seen this first hand.) The main question for them is cost and access. An unlimited digital library available at an extremely low cost makes up for the lack of the physical nature of books we 'oldsters' find so enjoyable.

Books may never go away entirely, but we shouldn't be surprised in ten years if the literary distribution landscape may look surprisingly like 'trek'.

CHV said...

Well put. Thanks.