There has been a bit of discussion about the future of books in the comments. RDC is already using Kindle, and Tim believes that books will be obsolete in 10 years.
I just don't believe that's going to happen; I'm more or less staking my future that it won't happen. It's a moot point, in a way, because I can't play that game. It would be the end of an entire industry; bookstores, printers, publishing as we know it.
But my gut feeling is that books are here to stay.
For one thing, Kindle has zero appeal to me, and I read lots and lots of books. In the end, many of my decisions are based on the idea that what I like, others will like.
Nor do I believe it's an anti-tech reaction. I don't play video games but I totally get their appeal. I totally get that they will probably get bigger and bigger and more sophisticated and complex. In fact, they are the real threat to books.
Not reading at all is the real threat to books.
In a way, it's not about the actual content.
I almost titled this entry with that phrase -- It's Not About the Content.
I happen to be someone who doesn't feel the need to keep every book I read. I've been writing them down in a notebook for 30 years now. I figure I can always track them down again. I save maybe 5% of my books on bookshelves.
But I really like having bookshelves and books and looking at them and touching them and smelling them and carrying them around. It's a nerd thing. Especially the touching and smelling. (Joke.)
There are two kinds of gardeners. The practical kind, who grow vegetables and herbs to actually eat. And flower gardeners, who like digging in the soil, planning projects, and seeing the results. Non-fiction readers are like vegetable gardeners; fiction readers are like flower gardeners.
Book readers want evidence of their prowess. I read this! the book on the shelf says. In my opinion, the very ephemeral-ness of a online version will keep it from becoming the dominant form. There are very few personality types who only value the content and not the form.
Maybe that makes us shallow. I don't know.
But if I'm going to read Moby Dick, I'm going to have that carcass on my bookshelf, by god. And if I love a book to death, I want to really OWN it, possess it, and show it off. I want tangible proof I read that sucker.
Having just received a couple of big shipments of books in my store, I can tell you that the covers are very impressive -- they make me want to pick up the books, leaf through the pages, read the back blurbs. The physical, tactile feel of a book is a big part of the pleasure.
From comments Tim has made, he reads non-fiction, technical books mostly. And for that kind of reader, the 'content only' reader, Kindle will be great. Maybe all of us will have a Kindle along with books. But my store is already designed for the fiction reader, the 'good book' reader.
Non-fiction is a vast world, and information becomes dated much quicker than fiction. Maybe non-fiction is appropriate for Kindle.
But fiction is more enduring. And books are physical manifestations of that.
Besides, sometimes just looking at a book brings back memories of it's content, what I was feeling when I read it. I don't know about the rest of you, but that feeling is sometimes the most enduring thing about a book. I may forget the plot, the characters names, but I remember the 'author's voice.' That's what stays in my thoughts and emotions, and just looking at a book can instantly brings it back.
I can look at my hardcover Lord of the Rings, and feel a wave of nostalgia.
Most arguments against Kindle have to do with cost, technical ability, readability, transportability. If these were the only issues, they could be resolved.
But much like the picture phone not really being a technical, cost, usability issue, but a cultural, personal issue, books will need to keep loyalty based on more intangible, human desires.
Anyone who reads quickly develops their own repertoire of favorite books, and that makes us individuals. We want our peculiar and idiosyncratic choice of intellectual life lined up on our bookshelves. I can visit a friend and look through his or her books and get a decent sense of where they're coming from..
I doubt we want to give that up..
Carrying a Kindle tells me nothing about you; if everyone is carrying around a Kindle, it makes us all exactly the same, somehow.
I got a Kindle, you got a Kindle, we all got Kindle. Plug us in.
6 days ago