The Death of the Book? – Part 1

March 5th, 2009

Book accessory
Image by Mr. Velocipede

Today is World Book Day (… albeitin the UK and Ireland only – what an oxymoron!)

With Amazon launching the Kindle 2, and sneaking Kindle ebook reader software onto the iPhone, it seems a good time to take the temperature of world opinion on the future of the book form that we celebrate so confidently this day.

Is the poor little book losing its cultural identity or – worse – its cultural significance?

In the same week that research showed social networking sites shortening children’s attention spans, Cory Doctorow warns that this aspect of the twitter generation could transform, if not destroy, the eBook.

What would The Lord of the Rings have become if Tolkien’s publisher’s son had said, “Yes, I love it Dad, and I think you should publish it … but I think he should rephrase it in 140 characters tweets that could fit on my iPhone screen.”

I fear the day when just such editorial demands will be made of authors. My feelings on the prevalent page-turning sentence fragment editorial thriller style is already documented, but how much more destructive will it be for the form when the dictates of the technology determine the style of the writing or – heaven-forbid – the form of the story? How can anything of significance or importance be constructed on such miniscule real-estate? Perhaps, as Doctorow hints, the internet and small-screen eReaders will cause a new renaissance of poetry.

Two years ago I started this blog and with it my journey towards the publishing world. The most important thing I have learned is that the publishing industry is changing – rapidly. Technological shifts combined with recessionary pressures are altering the publishing business of old. My publishing research coalesces my future approach to writing projects and even as I write this, it leaves me wondering am I getting this writing thing all wrong? Should I be reinventing myself as the world’s first haiku cyber-novelist instead?

Perhaps not.

The transformation of the book form may not be all bad. There is hope, but … I’m running out of the necessary cyber-spatial real-estate to complete my point. I’ve kept you here long enough and there are, no doubt, several important tweets demanding your attention at this very moment.

So tune in next time, brave reader, for the concluding bite-sized installment of “The Death of the Book”.

Entry Filed under: Observation & Musing,Publishing Industry,Science & Technology,Writing

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