Are Books as We Know Them Dead?

Or have rumors of their death been greatly exaggerated?

The book is dead. Again. Who knew? 

I heard that was said in the '60’s when television killed the book for the first time. Back then it was pretty much a given that that instrument of mediocrity would rot the brains of the children of the Greatest Generation and reduce humanity to simpletons. Except it didn’t. The same technology that brought inane content into our living rooms also brought the History Channel, breaking news, moon walks, the Super Bowl and Bill Nye.

This time the book is supposedly dead because of the e-reader, the hardware that is now making even the printed page obsolete. The proof? Amazon.com is selling more e-books than traditional books.

Call me tough to convince. Call me jaded. Call me a writer with a vested interest. I’m just not buying that the book is dead. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say instead that the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

People are born storytellers. We’ve used every medium from cave walls to film to tell the stories that burn in our imaginations. We’re not going to stop putting them in printed form simply because they can now be viewed in digital ink.

But that isn’t going to stop the purveyors of doom. It never has. I actually wouldn’t be one bit surprised to learn that as soon as Gutenberg pulled his first edition off his press back in 1440, some savant wandered over from the nearest rathskeller to let him know the printed word was never gonna make it. Why would anyone carry all that paper around when they could just sit by the fire and ask their neighbor to tell the story again, the guy probably said?

And Gutenberg? I can imagine he ran his hands over the vellum, took a deep breath of the satisfying aroma of the ink, shifted the bulk of that tome in his arms and went home to cuddle up in a comfy chair—to spend some quality time with his book.

Robin Ferrier March 02, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Is the book dead? I think the 8,00o people who attended last year's Gaithersburg Book Festival (http://www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org) would say no! Definitely not! The fact that this festival -- and numerous other festivals -- are thriving and new ones are popping up every day is a testament to the fact that people still read and still buy books.
Jud Ashman March 02, 2011 at 04:38 PM
I'll add to Robin's comment that, at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st, we're going to be hosting a panel discussion on this very topic with some great industry-insiders. Details on this are coming soon.
Gina Hagler March 06, 2011 at 08:44 PM


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