The internet is full of ironies. I, for one, could never have guessed that writing about the end of books would generate more income for me than actually publishing the damn things. I've been on an End of Books reading tour since August and it turns out that what the internet gurus say about consumers being more willing to pay for events, speeches and gigs, rather than buying cultural objects, is now becoming true.Morrison connects what he sees as the current e-book boom with the booms that accompanied huge and shaky periods of growth in the stock market and real estate and other boom-prone mediums.
The resulting piece, while interesting, is actually pretty silly. Morrison brings us a new, more nuanced shade of the sky is falling. While, certainly, there are aspects of the current e-book publishing climate that won’t survive the long term, the fact is -- Chicken Little-like assertions aside -- the publishing industry has been overdue for change for a long time. More: a lot of people actually like reading electronically. That means that thousands -- and if Amazon is to be believed, growing millions -- of people with shiny new e-reading devices are creating a bump in the market. With that kind of power, the market is falling over itself to respond. Will there be fallout? Of course. But there is also excitement about reading. New discussion about books. And a long stagnant system is reevaluating itself. Is all of that bad? I think not. But saying it is does make for more interesting reading than otherwise. It’s always journalistically healthy to piss people off.
Meanwhile, same paper, different page, Jonathan Franzen has his own Chicken Little-style observations of electronic books:
For serious readers, Franzen said, "a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience". "Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn't change," he continued. "Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don't have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it's going to be very hard to make the world work if there's no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government."Here’s the thing: over the long haul, we will come to realize that books are books. You can dress them up in gorgeous letterpress editions or you can share them electronically but the core of the book -- the soul, if you will -- is untouched by the method of delivery.
The industry will change. Let’s face it, it must. And some of the things that we think are true right now will prove not to be. But when the dust settles we will still have stories. We will still have authors. We will still have books.