RIP Books?

snack vs meal

Seth Godin’s announcement earlier this week that he will no longer write books got me thinking. He, and others have commented on the demise  of the publishing industry, how the traditional form of a book is dead. They damn it with that word “traditional”, as if it belongs in another era and has no relevance today. As a book lover who buys hundreds of books each year every time the death of books is announced it’s a little stab to my heart.

It’s not a new claim, it’s something I’ve heard for more than 10 years. Since everything is now online I can offer articles from Kevin Kelley c2006, from Jeff Jarvis c2006, and from Michael Hyatt c2007.

The justifications come down to;

  • the advance of technology; we now have devices (including the horridly named iPad) where on screen reading is becoming a pleasurable experience
  • the advance of technology part 2; we now use information in a link/search/metadata world online and when it comes to knowledge that’s how we increasingly want to receive it.
  • the one way nature; the author tells us something, we don’t get to respond
  • they “depend on blockbuster economics”; because books are expensive to produce (compared to pixels) you need to sell a lot of them.

Much is made of the market revolution caused by iTunes, and it’s true that the music industry has been transformed. A few purists still worship at the vinyl shrine but it’s a shrinking group, and most of them have an iPod for weekdays. Are paper books doomed to become the province of purists, will booklovers become some sort of weird geek cult?

I’m not sure.

I like Seth Godin, I enjoy his blog. It’s bite-sized inspiration. Something I can dip in and out of. Fantastic. But I have been spectacularly underwhelmed by his recent books and the problem is me. When I pick up a business book I’m looking for depth; I want to read the longer case studies, I want the detail, I want to digest and think about what’s been written. I want to learn and to ponder how what I’ve learnt can help me in my work/writing/life.

When I go to a blog I’m looking for a snack, preferably a piquant one.

When I go to a book I want the full meal, and don’t hold back on the sauce.

With the rise of technologies and devices that make reading digital content more pleasurable this may not be a case of reading from paper, but I do still want depth on subjects, I want to hear from experts. I can see we’re mid-revolution – or rather mid-evolution in the way we consume content, but I suspect there is room for both bite-sized commentary of blogs and the in-depth analysis of experts.

And as good as the devices become I can’t imagine curling up in bed with one.

image Fried Spring Rolls /Mithril/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

One thought on “RIP Books?”

  1. It is far too early to declare the death of the book.

    According to the FT (http://tinyurl.com/2fwuafe
    ) business schools in the US tried introducing e-readers and the students rejected them for traditional paper books partly because they were easier to mark and to read.

    Also consider whether e-books and paper are substitutes or complements. The Enlightened Economist has an interesting discussion on this ( http://tinyurl.com/3ym33b3
    )

    The post also points out aspects of pricing for e-books that make them more expensive than they seem.

    An amusing view of iPads as a poor substitute to books can also be read in Tyler Brule’s FT column (http://tinyurl.com/2u3eh6q
    )

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