Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Book Is Dead....Hmmm.

Clem and Tom both seem worried about the future of the book. But a blog is nothing without debate, and I'm not so sure. True, the Kindle and the new generation of e-books are potentially a threat, and one we should take seriously. And, also true, the music industry was effectively killed by the web, and the newspaper industry looks like being next, so we shouldn't be complacent.

Still, there are some important differences.

In both music and newspapers, the technology dictated the form. The 40-minute LP happened to be the length because that's what you could fit onto 12-inches of vinyl. The once a day mix of news, business, sport, crosswords and features that we call a newspaper came about because that was worked when printing presses and trains were the only way of distributing information. In both cases, the product itself was, to a large extent, created by the technology.

And so, when the technology changed, there wasn't much point to the product any more.

I don't that's true of the book. Okay, it's printed and bound, but it's just a narrated story and there have never been any technological rules about length (a novel, by the way, is a similar length to a dream) or format.

My point is that while digital music and digital news are in many ways superior products that isn't true of books.

A digital book might be cheaper, if the publishers choose to make it so, or free if there is file-sharing, but it isn't better.. And that's a crucial distinction.

To me the big challenge to writers and novelists isn't the e-book. It's the compter game. This is a completely new narrative form, and one that can be far more immmersive for the reader/player. But that isn't a threat. It's an opportunity.

- Matt Lynn

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