The Bee was telling me James Walcott’s article in Vanity Fair last month about the Kindle and how Book Snobbery was at danger of extinction. I was under strict instruction that she was going to blog about it and I wasn’t allowed. Fine. I waited… and waited and waited and then said if you don’t blog about it I’m going to write about it. So she did, finally, and she wrote a great post about book snobbery.
A couple of friends commented on her post, on Facebook and on her blog. My favourite comment was on facebook from our friend Rahim, who said:
“When babybee is in your position, there will be no books. There will be a cloud and there will be an access device. Some of which you will have to pay for, a lot of which will be free. Is the business model of the past suitable for digital? No. Is the business model being formulated at present going to work in the future? Probably not. Do people read as they do now as they did in the past? No. They consume their time differently. But books, in some form will remain, information will remain and time will remain. The book is dead. Long live the book..”
I loved this comment. But I disagree, slightly.
The thing is it’s hard to be social, tactile and share an electronic experience with an ebook, regardless the format. We’ve bought books for friends and their kids to share that have “touch experiences”. I’ve enjoyed reading with the kids of my family and my friends, and I can’t wait to open up a book with my own kids and read, and ask questions and share their experiences while discovering books.
The social experience of books with children is totally different from the social experience with music and film. Which is why I can’t see the book totally disappearing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think people will use ebooks, especially on vacations, especially for text books, and business books. And I don’t buy the serendipity argument, well get discovery through different channels (like Amazon book lists, people who bought this book also bought suggestions and things like facebook applications). More and more books will be read and discovered electronically, and this isn’t a bad thing, in fact – at least from an environmental perspective – it’s probably a pretty good thing.
Electronic books will just mean we’re able to read more, we’re not limited to what we can carry, and if things go the free route, what we can afford. But as long as we read and have shared experiences with our kids about books, our kids will continue to have positive thoughts and feelings about books. So while we embrace technology and new business models regarding books, don’t write off the book just yet.