Thursday, April 8, 2010

Litera Scripta Manet? Ehh...Not So Much.

My oldest and dearest friend and I have had a long-running conversation about the promise of the digital literary future versus the reality we find ourselves creeping toward. And the conclusion we've come to (he's as generally disillusioned with well, pretty much everything, as I am) is that while there are positives, by and large the ephemeral binary promises of cloud computing, e-books, Ipads, Kindles and their ilk cannot compare to the solidity, the tactile experience, the permanence, the sheer physical presence of an actual book.

Take my copy of "Ulysses" for example. There's nothing special about it, really. But this product of the Gutenberg 1.0 Operating System is always on, never needs re-charging or a software update and its basic function will never be supplanted or made obsolete. Barring fire, flood or fundamentalist book-banners, it is absolutely fail-proof. And being some sixty-odd years old, it smells wonderful when you riffle the pages with your fingers.

It - like all books - is a simple, affordable enchantment. When I was younger I would walk through the dusty old stacks of the University of Oklahoma library (before they ruined them with remodeling) and lose myself in their worlds (I would also stumble across the occasional lovestruck couple lost in theirs...).

So sure, e-book readers are cool, but come on, they'll never replace books, right? The written word, the real written word, will endure. Right?

Book Sales Dipped 1.8% in 2009; eBook Sales Rose 176%

And if that wasn't bad enough, I also saw this this morning...

USA Today's website has started running thousands of pieces of original travel editorial from the Demand Media content farm, making USA Today the latest traditional news publisher to incorporate editorial from an outside supplier and a big win for Demand Media's content-generation effort.

If you don't know what Demand Media Studios is, it is quite literally the publishing equivalent of a third-world sweatshop, employing desperate freelancers who agree to churn out three to four hundred-word "stories" for...wait for it...about fifteen buck per. Demand Studios then sells this content to media outlets that used to assign their own stories and produce their own original reporting.

Welcome to the future. It's freakin' rosy...

Maybe I just feel like being an iCrank today. At least I don't need an app for that. Yet.


  1. Indeed. How do you underline and dog-ear a paperback eBook?

  2. Hi Chad,
    I'm with Tovar on this one, some books have been with me for years and have grown (old) with me complete with dog-ears an all. There is something magical about a book and for me there always will be.

  3. I can see a place, a very narrow, seldom-used place for ebooks. Maybe on a long trip where storage and weight are at a premium. Maybe. Up to this point I've always found room to carry my books, newspapers and magazines when I travel.

    I wouldn't put too much stock in the book vs. ebook stats just yet. We're in a recession and I find myself going to the library more often than the bookstore. ebooks are still in the early adoption phase so a 147% increase may sound impressive, but actual numbers probably don't. I can't imagine not holding a book when I sit down to read.

  4. I like some Ebooks for things long out of print that I can't afford. But also as space has become a issue it makes sense. But I still love the old book store the search and the smell. I like disorganized book stores the most cause me to browse.