I recently started a post on this subject at my Webgrammar social networking site. Here is one response, with more to come.
Guest post by Angela Allen
I think books are on their way out, and it makes me sad. I think there will always be books, but they will fall into two categories — the disposable paperbacks (the kind of trash novels you read on the beach, and don’t care if you lose on the plane home – similar to paper cups that are used once and discarded) and the collector’s beautiful gilt-edged, leather-bound tomes.
As a writer and a technology nut, I’m watching with amazement and, sometimes, horror as this magnificent change materializes. Like you, I think the change in photography is a good, close comparison. But I still have those photos that I adore — the ones printed “properly” on paper and hanging on my wall or sitting at my desk — but I have thousands on my hard drive. So photos … and probably books… will become something we only keep in physical formats when they are quite dear to us. The rest, the “dirty masses” if you will, will probably be in electronic format.
On the flip side, I love that I can carry a couple hundred books on my iPhone. I think it’s great that my one little pocket-sized device can entertain me on so many levels (books, movies, music, photos, communication, research, Internet, etc.) It appeals to my “minimization” tendencies. And, I must admit that the “flick to turn” graphics on a touch screen is pretty cool as a book reader. I like the idea of “digital paper” in a big way… but I like writing in ALL formats. I love words. Period.
I admit that I miss the big and bulky, but tactile-silky pages of a hard-bound book for pleasure reading. I don’t miss it for research, however. I prefer my research to be digital — I like searching instead of scanning for hundreds of pages for the information I seek.
What’s happening with the publishing industry is similar to what’s happening to the music industry — we are seeing a change in the way it’s approached. It’s a growth and a change… and it’s probably a natural evolution. I, for one, will always have a few prized books in heavy, old-fashioned hard back. But, I’m carrying more books with me now than I have since college, and I don’t have the huge backpack or the backache I had then. Now, I have a pocket that’s a little bulgy. It’s a pretty worthwhile trade-off when I’m thinking in a practical way rather than an emotional one.
What really makes me crazy is to have the educators devalue reading. To be told that “spelling really isn’t that important, so long as you can sort of figure out what they are trying to say, since everything has spell-check now” makes me want to scream. And to have my 12-year old, who can read on a college level, bring home a permission slip to check out audio books, so she can listen to books instead of read them, makes me nuts. (This child has a book in her hand 18 hours a day — to the point that I actually fuss at her for reading too much!!!) While I think she should put down the book to eat and to do her chores, she disagrees every time my back is turned.
To encourage her to “listen” instead of to read is a sin, IMHO. This is the direction of books that bothers me, not the actual format for reading words. I want it to be READING — not watching or listening — especially in school. I like listening to an audio book while driving or while working out, so I can see some times when that’s a great option. But it is not a substitution.