The latest news of the Borders bookstore chain losing their fight to stay alive, hammers one more nail in the coffin filled to the brim with hardcovers, trade and mass paperbacks.
So who is responsible for putting the book on life support? Barnes and Nobles? They, more than any other chain went out of their way to polish off independent competition, and dictated to publishers what they wanted to see published. And publishers obeyed. There by lowering the quality and quantity published.
Amazon? By offering titles at such a significant discount they undercut both independent booksellers and B&N, Borders, etc. Plus, they offer on their site the option of buying from used sellers–some of whom purchase brand new books and sell them at even more ridiculously low prices, undercutting Amazon itself.
The publishers? Whose bottom line to pay out millions to a few authors thereby limiting new output and variety of titles produced. And perhaps by doing so, alienated a great deal of the reading public, who stopped buying.
The machines replacing the paper book? The kindles, etc, e-books that hold more titles than an entire barn of stacked tomes? If they weren’t invented and available from the very people who are now selling *real* books, would people be clamoring for them?
Oprah? Just recently she questioned Barbara Walters on her choice to carry the large bio of former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on a plane trip. Almost ridiculing Walters for not going electronic, Walters explained how she needed to research and write notes in the margins–an app yet to be developed for electronic devices, but no doubt on the horizon. More than any other powerful individual, Oprah has championed reading, but now she’s pushing the e-book as the only method one should use, at least that’s how it appears. Has anyone asked her this question?
So, whodunit? All of the above? None of the above?
Time marches on, ‘progress’ is in lock step beside it.
Thinking about the demise of the book, I began to wonder about certain important issues not yet explored. What happens to children’s books? Are 3 year olds expected to scroll down for Hey Diddle Diddle? How will illustrations fit into the mix? Will dust jacket and cover artists be out of work too? Or will the e-book keep the artistic expression of the story within by a ‘page’ with title and art?
And what will the people employed by paper works, printing companies, even loggers, do when their jobs are unnecessary? Already the 19,000 employed at Borders need to retrain for another profession, there aren’t enough jobs in the remaining bookstores to cover them, let alone the employees they now have, what with cuts to what’s being published in paper.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Many a huge industry has fallen throughout the centuries, morphed into more ‘sophisticated’ forms, but none as personal as the written word for the reader.
So picture the future with just e-books. What about those countries and areas too poor to pay the price required for a kindle? The devices aren’t cheap, not the cost of a hardcover or paperback, naturally. We keep being fed just *how many* books will fit upon/within, the electronic toy. Therefore the price needs to reflect this. OK. Will every school be provided with e-books for all students? Will poorer school districts be using obsolute history books because they can’t afford the latest e-text book?
And how reliable are these contraptions? What’s the mileage, metaphorically speaking? Are we the public going to be hoodwinked into buying the newest, most tricked out e-book each year as the e-powered people produce a new model as often as a person sneezes, as they do with laptops?
Will the e-book be repairable? Or will this be another environmental disaster, heaps upon heaps of non biogradable kindles? Acknowledged, trees will be used less for paper–yet, we’ve learned how to recycle paper finally, now that we won’t be using it.
The kindle, etc., are aesthetically devoid, no matter how one tries to sugar coat it, e-books are small monitors. Period. Sure, the plastic could have color, an app may even change the color of the text. However, the sumptuous atmosphere a reader receives, for example, feeling the texture of brown paper, the eye candy of a succulent peach on the cover of A Debt To Pleasure by John Lancaster will be absent. The bright lithos within a typical picture book will be muted and flattened under the screen. And the aroma of crisp new paper, or musky old pages will be a fleeting memory, for those who once held a book, a real book, in their hands.
So the murderer is?
The next and next and next generations who grow up staring at computer screens and think nothing of it–find it normal, usual, right. And why shouldn’t they, if given no choice, no alternative to lifeless bright glaring monitors? Having never experienced the joy of: cracking open a newly minted story; endpapers of an intricate design; an artistic title page; the back jacket flap proclaiming the talents and other works of the writer–with a posed picture; or the sense of the book as a great companion, friend—the thought of lugging around 5 pounds of paper, glue, boards, and cover art, wouldn’t be appealing in the least. Without the paper option, and maybe even with, most readers won’t miss the physical book.
Time, progress, and people who know nothing but what is given them, will kill the ‘real’ book.
This is how it looks from my point of view at this point in time. I’m hoping like hell I’m absolutely, unequivocally wrong. Please tell me just how wrong I am. Tell me at the last moment a hero appears and saves the ‘book’ from a certain death! I’d appreciate it!