Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are Books Obsolete?

Here's an article from Nerve.com which posits that perhaps books are bit too precious and maybe even elitist! What do you think?



1 comment:

C.A. Cole said...

There's no denying that how we receive our information is changing rapidly, but declaring books obsolete underestimates all of their functions in our society. True, the Net offers speed and more equitable access to publishing (a good thing, mostly), but books serve as tangible historical documents (even in fiction format), whereas in the Net world things can disappear and not be missed. Context and history seem disposable online, and that's a bad thing.

The snobbery I feel Mikita is picking up on is the age-old genre differences between literary and pop fiction, an important distinction. Literary's not for everybody, but its has its place. Books and stories (classics and modern-day pop alike) reflect the personalities and times of their writers. They're equally important. I went through the stacks at the Central library two days ago for the first time and marvelled at the history I was walking through.

Mikita herself is a fringe-pop writer. She's not going to pen a Pulizter prize winner like Junot Diaz's "...Oscar Wao." And that's not an insult; just an observation. Different strokes for different folks. Steven King is a great example of a writer who has fought through this genre war and won to a certain degree. But I don't think it's "books" in general that Mikita's commenting on.

I am part of the generation that was on the cusp of the Net's emergence. I grew up on books and entered a work force in the digital age. I love the Net and am on it constantly, BUT to me there are stories and references that I would rather view off screen. I like the feel and smell of a novel's paper pages against my fingers, and I skim too much online to retain enough of a good story. I even prefer magazine articles in print versions over their electronic counterparts. I get more out of it.

I heard recently is that the latest thing in book publishing was to parse out chapters in 1,000-word increments, for a small fee. They actually called it a "book delivery system." I'm not against the idea so much in theory, but I personally skim too much online and find I retain more off screen.

So, are books obsolete? Never. They're revered because printed word is valuable. It is history that cannot be erased with the click of a button. And, cracking a book open doesn't take energy resources, unlike a glowing screen. That's something that the younger generations will just have to find out on their own.

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