The punning subtitle to this article indicates its subtext: “The future of the book is inherently linked to the browser.”
“So a video journalist goes into a bookstore …” and finds little to report. Beset by the BBC’s wallowing in non-events and the trivial, I am probably flailing out unfairly at the PBS’s “dog bites man” story or perhaps indigesting a bit of humbug this Christmas season. MediaShift . VIDEO: Can Print and E-Books Coexist? | PBS.*
At least one commentator (gfrost; Gary Frost?), however, points out what video journalist Joshua Davis and his interviewees failed to explore: “[M]issed is an inherent interdependence between print and screen books. An eerie complementary fit of the different affordances means that neither will flourish without the other.” Now there is a premise worth exploring, which Gary Frost does (see previous posting).
And what would Joshua Davis and his interviewees make of David Streitfield’s story in the NY Times that sales of e-reading devices seem to have reached a plateau? “Even as prices fall, though, the dedicated e-reader is losing steam. The market peaked last year, with 23.2 million devices sold, IHS iSuppli said in a report this month. This year, sales will be 15 million. By 2016, the forecast is for seven million devices — as opposed to 340 million tablets, which allow for e-reading and so much more.”
Streitfield’s story actually begins with “the dog that didn’t bark”: the prices for ebooks themselves have not fallen, despite the predicted result of the US Justice Department’s case against and settlements with six of the big publishers (five, now that two are merging). For Frost’s premise that neither form — ebook or print — will flourish without the other, does that raise the question of whether either will decline without the other’s declining? The rules of logic alone suggest otherwise, but consider Streitfield’s “more counterintuitive possibility … that the 2011 demise of Borders, the second-biggest chain, dealt a surprising blow to the e-book industry. Readers could no longer see what they wanted to go home and order.”
Perhaps the ebook and print are more intertwined than even Frost’s premise implies. Simba’s Jonathan Norris is quoted in Streitfield’s article: “The print industry has been aiding and assisting the e-book industry since the beginning.” Of course, someone needs to point this out with a cattle prod to the publishers withholding their ebooks from public and academic libraries. The site TeachingDegree offers a succinct collection of data (PBS take notes) on the topic in a sort of dialectical digital poster.
Perhaps the whole story is just “human reads book” and is not worth a bookmark, but then where would have been the fun of finding out in punning
with Magritte’s painting that the French for bookmark is either un signet (digital) or un marque-page (print), and in English we can make no distinction?
*In fairness to PBS, readers should take a look at the series “Beyond the Book 2012.”
Still, Frost’s Future of the Book goes far deeper.
How might we explain the ascent, pervasiveness and popular appeal of digital art?
A few months ago, Greg Smith, a Toronto-based artist, reviewed Claire Bishop’s “Digital Divide” (Art Forum, September 2012). The review and Bishop’s article touch on a recurrent theme in Books On Books: the materiality and immateriality of books.
But the review and Bishop’s article resonate with some more recent and popular seismic tremors in the world of ebooks. With all but Macmillan caving into the US Justice Department, we are still left wondering where and when the consumer benefits in cheaper ebooks will be handed out. The prices on e-reading devices have plummeted, but in the world of ebooks, a slight unease about the inevitability of e-readers is creeping in as tablets and mini-tablets seize the imaginations of some with the loudest digital megaphones. “Are e-reading devices doomed?” And by extension – given that tablets are far more than ebook devices — “Is the trajectory for ebooks leveling off?” While the post-Xmas sales analysis will be more assiduously examined for the “evidence” than the equally predictive gizzards of our Xmas fowls, as Greg Smith paraphrases Julian Oliver, “the New Aesthetician”: material or immaterial, “we should all just keep focused on making stuff.”
- Can Print and E-Books Coexist? Ceci n’est pas un signet! (books-on-books.com)
In his Teleread article (11 October 2012), Dan Eldridge picks up on Associate Professor Justin Hollander’s New York Times op-ed piece protesting Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s comment before the National Press Club that “over the next few years, [paper] textbooks should be obsolete.”
What makes his comments on comments on a comment bookmark-worthy are the comments they provoked from Gary Frost, Emeritus Conservator at the University of Iowa Libraries and the author of Future of the Book: A Way Forward (Coralville, IA: Iowa Book Works, 2012):
“The current rush of changes in print and ebook uses is dramatic evidence of our close relationship with books. A flood of digital reading devices and hybrid software and hardware designs are emerging as the print book is augmented by screen delivery and associated cloud libraries, ebook collection building, automated index and searching, and screen learning. While all screen book simulations deviate from print conventions the hybrids that emerge reference each other and often resonate with each other. This rapidly developing book production and consumption landscape is dynamic and unique in media history, or is it?
It’s pretty amazing that little attention is paid to the emerging composite of print and screen delivery of books. I mean looking directly between them and at an emergent functionality of all books. There you can now perceive the interdependence of print and screen and the likelihood that neither will flourish without the other. . . . Also involved are other forums, other than the forum of current technologies, their products and marketing. These other disciplines include academic book studies, cognitive science aspects of reading, book sustainability within libraries and many vectors of book arts.”
One might single out the infiltration of the book by “the social web” from the vector of current technologies that Frost insightfully identifies as necessary to explore this moment in the book’s/ebook’s evolution in which those who buy ebooks buy yet more print books. The ability to annotate and share print books is gradually being replicated, prodded as it were by the phenomenon of the social web.
So here you have it: a comment on comments on comments on comments on a comment.
“Of the making of comments, there is no end.”
The American Libraries Magazine, the magazine of the American Library Association, delivers news and information about the library community. In it, Beverly Goldberg writes, “the ALA today released “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries” (PDF file) a report that describes general features and attributes of the current ebook environment and outlines constraints and restrictions of current business models.”
It would be worthwhile to compare the ALA report’s proposals with the subject of the previous posting.
For the past 25 years, Chip Kidd has made a name for himself as a top book designer. His designs have helped transform books into visual icons.
With the disappearance of the dustjacket’s original function — to protect the binding of the book — is it imaginable that the book cover will no longer be needed as the book evolves?
Imaginable, yes. Likely, no. As long as the imagination of Chip Kidd and his like bring their passion to publishing.
The possiblility of building up the thumbnail cover across the pages/screens of the ebook or giving it a functional role in the narrative may mean we come to judge a cover by its book!
See on www.npr.org