Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Importance of Books

Surfing the news net, I came across an interesting article in the LA Observed called Future of Book Publishing is Unknowable. At the rate things are changing in the industry, I think most of us would agree with that title.

Here are a couple of what the author of the article, Kevin Roderick, called “tidbits” from a keynote address by Steve Wasserman, former Los Angeles Times book editor, now agent and book editor at Truthdig.

Wasserman quoted Randall Stross of the New York Times, who asked:
With the new devices in hand, will book buyers avert their eyes from the free copies only a few clicks away that have been uploaded without copyright holder’s permission? Mindful of what happened to the music industry at a similar transitional juncture, book publishers are about to discover whether their industry is different enough to spared a similar fate....”
Wasserman added this:
In the United States, bricks-and-mortar bookstores continue to disappear at a rate rivaled only by the relentless destruction of the Amazonian rain forest. Twenty years ago, there were about 4,000 independent bookstores. Today, only about 1,500 remain. Even the two largest U.S. chain bookstores—themselves partly responsible for putting smaller stores to the sword—are in a precarious state…
Click over to read what Wasserman sees as the three overlapping and contending crises facing the publishing industry. According to the article, Wasserman said: “[Readers] know in their bones something we forget at our peril: that without books—indeed, without literacy—the good society vanishes and barbarism triumphs.”

I think Wasserman is right in that statement. Without the ability to read and comprehend, society is in trouble. I would add that people also need a choice in what they read and the ability and freedom to discern truth from propaganda and hot air.

What do you think?
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22 comments:

  1. I can’t see books in some format or another disappearing completely (because writers have to write), but I do think we may have to get used to seeing less paper books and more electronic ones in the future. It makes me sad but I will - if it’s forced on me - adapt.

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  2. It's sad to imagine a world without books. In my heart I just don't see that as an option, but we are facing a very real shift in the way we read and recover reading materials. I like the e-readers but I would hate to lose the relic of having the actual paper in my hands.

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  3. Indie bookstores are getting killed by chains, who in turn are getting killed by online retailers. Nothing to do with e-books as yet. But it could happen.

    Take a look at the NYT bestseller list and tell me if you see much hope for mankind there.

    http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/bestseller/

    Okay, it's not all mass market or bad but I'm not seeing much in the way of science or philosophy.

    And if the book DOES go, it doesn't mean the end of civilization because the whole of human knowledge is inexorably being put online, and that's where ideas are going to be nurtured in the future. When you can curl up with a blog as easily as you can curl up with a book now, is it going to matter how you're being edified?

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  4. I think the format will change, but that books will still be around.

    Now *journalism*--that I'm worried about.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  5. I think that people need not only a choice in what to read, but a choice in the format they read it in. I've heard recently that in music, cd/album sales are at an historic low. Downloaded music seems to be the preferred method, as sad as losing books. With downloaded art, there is nothing concrete to hold, to view. No cd cover, no book cover, no collections to set on a shelf. Something is lost in the arts becoming virtual.

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  6. I'm with Joanne. I'm a vicarious re-reader. My bookshelf is stocked with my favorites. When I have nothing new to read, I stroll over, touch the bindings, pull out a book, gaze at the cover and say, "no, not that one today." Then I move on, through shelf after shelf until I find the perfect read. In the long run, I'm sure we'll adjust to everything on line, but somehow it seems so much of the experience, the tactile and all encompassing part will be lost.

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  7. I can't imagine a world without books... okay I can and it is not pretty. A society without the arts is not living they are surviving. I hope we never become that.

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  8. That's a powerful statement in that last quote, and I agree with it. We are as a society going down some very perilous paths. Morally we look very much like Rome just before it collapsed. And these new technologies that are far exceeding our wisdom as a race of people are leading us god only knows where.

    Marvin D Wilson

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  9. Regardless of the paper vs ebook debate, it's alarming how many children don't see a value in reading. Want to know a story? Watch the movie!
    It's sad.

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  10. I'm with everyone else who has already commented, Helen. It's just sad. I'm not that pessimistic, though. I just can't imagine we will allow a world without real, hold in your hand, books.
    Karen

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  11. Thinking about the concept of all record of human knowledge being online and tended by technology reminds me of the old Twilight Zone episode about Henry Bemis, the man who loves to read. After a cataclysmic event where the network of our society is destroyed how do you access the books and reading material that have been solely relegated to the electronic universe that has been destroyed. Books are simple tangible evidence of our past even if they become considered relics in the future.

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  12. After seeing the number of local people who participated in NaNoWriMo, and then seeing that a large number of these folks were middle school and high school age, I stopped worrying. Where there are writers, there are readers. And it follows that there will be books in some form.

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  13. Not just pirated free books, but free reading material in general is so available now! I remember an article in Time earlier this year that said the bulk of reading will come from free material available online.
    One only has to look at the popularity of fanfiction and the like to see that good, free material is readily available.

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  14. I look at the bigger screened e-readers for college students. They can read textbooks, including charts and pictures. They can highlight and underline. And they can cut 50 pounds of books out of their backpack. It won't take but about one generation for those to become standard (unless something better comes out). And it won't take long before games can be played on those screens and then you've got the kids hooked. That's a scenario I see.

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  15. I know in my heart that there will always be writers and there will always be readers. What they write and what they read will change. But the relationship will continue on.

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  16. Reading, writing, education are the cornerstones of a free and advanced or advancing society. Without them, society will undoubtedly deteriorate. We have to remember though that change is inevitable. Changing the way we read doesn't mean we're not reading. Kids still love to read, some of them prefer it digitally, some via books. The love and knowledge are the important parts, not necessarily the format. (Sorry, teacher moment :))

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  17. stories will be told. there weren't always books - they are quite a modern thing - my great grandparents might have had ten or so - the Bible, Shakespeare, maybe Dickens and Mark Twain, perhaps Thackeray. But stories have always been told. Stories are told one to another - or by famous story tellers. They are told in theatres, in the movies and on the page. We have to have stories and our job as story tellers and story receivers is to see what shape they will best come in.

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  18. I believe we will always have books but somewhere down the road they'll be like vinyl records. We'll keep them on shelves and our grandchildren will think we're nuts for loving something so fragile and easily destroyed. Ebooks will take us over and I agree with the idea of the college students who eventually get all their textbooks in e-format will be the generation to stop reading paper books. But they will read. I have faith.

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  19. I like the vinyl comparison. That means they might make a comeback!

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  20. According to my father-in-law, bricks-and-mortar stores are in trouble in England too.

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  21. I've hear that, too, Sheila. Something has to change.

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  22. Reading is absolutely critical for education. Not just textbooks, but a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction that can broaden a student's wold view while stimulating critical thinking and building vocabulary. It doesn't matter what form future books take so much as it matters that we have future books.

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