Not so long ago, I prognosticated that while the digital age is redefining how we communicate, educate, and pontificate, the almighty discrete unit will not replace books. Books made of paper. Books printed with ink onto paper. Some forms of media will be anatomically redefined but not books. There will always be books.
I still believe it.
Perhaps they will be relics. But they will exist. Perhaps they will be called reproductions, and to acquire them you will have to head to a different kind of store, like those places that sell items from the Franklin Mint. And they will be accorded a place in our houses with other treasures of the past, like Himmel figurines and replica Civil War firearms.
Perhaps it won’t happen in my lifetime -I kind of hope it doesn’t. But I see what Amazon can do with the Kindle and Sony with its Reader and I can see the writing on the digital wall. Not sure I like it. And I actually hope I am wrong about all this.
I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that set me to nervous twitching about the fate of beloved books. It is both amazing and scary what is in store. Consider that the electronic reader is a device that you carry around with you wherever you go and which is like a bookstore unto itself offering you millions of titles with a click of a finger, and is part of living, active community of other electronic readers . . . Listen . . .
“Think of it as a permanent, global book club. As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore. Reading books will go from being a fundamentally private activity — a direct exchange between author and reader — to a community event, with every isolated paragraph the launching pad for a conversation with strangers around the world.”
I think I am scared. In my younger days I was scared of a lot of things (like roller coasters, carousel horses and the Michelin Man) so I am no stranger to fear. I confess I learned to like roller coasters and carousel horses (in moderation) and I am at peace with a man made of white tires with a perpetual smile on his face, but the fear still lingers. Still it lingers. Consider this:
“Individual paragraphs will be accompanied by descriptive tags to orient potential searchers; chapter titles will be tested to determine how well they rank. Just as Web sites try to adjust their content to move as high as possible on the Google search results, so will authors and publishers try to adjust their books to move up the list.”
Now this flat out irks me. I am already longing for a book with silent pages and a cuppa and a quiet, lonely place where I can be transported, anonymously, to another time and place. And it hasn’t even happened yet. Makes me tremble. Not sure if it is the thrill of The Matterhorn at Disneyland or the doom of an abyss.
Yes, the article is a bit lengthy, but you should know what kind of world awaits you. Read and digest. Then tell me your thoughts . . .