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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are Books Dead?

You know it is not good when your boss' husband calls into work to tell us that a major media outlet is running headlines like Are Books Dead, and Can Authors Survive?

The good news here is that the major media outlet in question is The Guardian which has the best book coverage on the web.  This essay by Ewan Morrison is part of the conversation from this past weekend's Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Now those of is who have been in libraries for awhile now have heard it all before.  I remember back in 1998 in my fist library school class reading an article about how libraries will no longer exist in ten years.  And here we are 13 years later standing tall and seeing record high circulation numbers.

However much I have dismissed other death of books essays in the past, Morrison's essays makes some great points.

First, we have a generation coming up right now who use very little paper.  Not just to read on.  The more you think about it you see how right he is.  They don't jot notes on  paper, the don't collect or save paper.  They are the first paperless generation, and they certainly do not read on paper.

Second, he talks about the death of the advance.  Kathy and I were discussing this a bit in the RA office today.  At first, you think, no big deal, but what it means is that the midlist authors get left behind because they can no longer make a career of writing.  Without the chance to be professional writers, they cannot hone their craft, get better, and become the prize winners of tomorrow.  He convincingly uses Don DeLillo as a great example.  But also, what about all of those great authors who never get the chance to finish their first book without an advance.

Third, there is the current generation's expectation of free original content on the web (not that I am helping matters here by writing a blog with original content and not making a cent for doing it).  This is a huge issue.  People expect everything to be available for free online.  This may be the biggest obstacle to the life of the printed book.

There is much more to see in Morrison's argument.  I would highly suggest you take a look for yourself.

Ironically, I am off this morning to take the kiddos to the first day of 1st and 4th grades where they will use books and computers in almost equal amounts of time in the classroom.  I am already noticing how much more they read printed books than their peers though.

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