I’ve always maintained that what makes books special is how they allow us a particular engagement with time. They force us to slow things down. Now, Maura Kelly in the Atlantic is calling for a slow books movement, mirroring the slow food manifesto:
In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They’ll help us unwind better than any electronic device—and they’ll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too.
And we’ve moved beyond thinking that we need ink on paper for this… (yay!)
The Slow Books movement won’t stand opposed to technology on purely nostalgic or aesthetic grounds. (Kindles et al make books likeWar and Peace less heavy, not less substantive, and also ensure you’ll never lose your place.)
It was always going to happen, but the print Encyclopedia Britannica is no longer with us. From the BBC:
After 244 years reference book firm Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to stop publishing its famous and weighty 32-volume print edition.
It will now focus on digital expansion amid rising competition from websites such as Wikipedia.
The distinction between lean-forward (desktop computer) and lean-back (television) media is something that also happens in the print v electronic debate (book vs online computer). Now the economist suggests that the iPad transforms the conversation – and opens up what they’re calling Lean back 2.0:
…data from all sorts of sources shows clearly that consumers read on tablets in a way much closer to print than to online. You can’t lump all digital experiences together. This new kind of digital lean back, which we, somewhat lamely, call “lean back 2.0”, has the potential to deliver an even better lean-back experience than print.
Nice post (in response to Jonathan Franzen’s dissing of ebooks) in The New York Review of Books from Tim Park:
The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience.
I am all for taking shots at Amazon and its popular Kindle, because the company is showing the unmistakable ticks of the power-mad monopoly, but Franzen was talking nonsense and was being a mite precious to boot…
If Dickens were alive today, guess who’d be blogging, offering the occasional tweet, setting up literary websites, digging out some of his old work and repackaging it in ebooks. Dickens loathed many of his publishers, whom he regarded as lazy, thieving parasites, and he would have been thrilled by the opportunities we have of unmediated connection between writer and reader.
Franzen’s spray was based on the value of the fixed nature of the printed object – implying that any kindle owner could brazenly alter the content of their purchased ebooks with zero effort. Like, how? Ironic that he was the author that had thousand of fixed objects pulped by his publisher, when they were found to be ‘wrong’ :-)
Interesting post over at PandoDaily, with a purported publishing industry insider commenting on Amazon’s game plan. The context is the usual (I’ve done it too) list of what ails book publishing, but with the author suggesting that Amazon will emerge as the sole survivor. Don’t know about the source, but the smell of death is in the air:
We can’t pay $1 million for books anymore. Amazon could probably afford to lose $20 million/year in their publishing arm just to put the other publishers out of business. I think that’s what they’re trying to do–throw money around in an industry that doesn’t have any, until Amazon becomes not only the only place where you buy books, but the only place that publishes books, too.
Amazon launched its kindle lending library in November last year and is now reporting that in conjunction with its Direct Publishing scheme, independent authors are earning reasonable money via the lending of their books. At $1.70 per borrow, there’s some money to be made – albeit within the confines of the Amazon ecosystem. From readwriteweb:
Amazon says that total sales of titles in the KDP Select lending program grew faster than KDP titles that aren’t in the lending program, but they don’t say how much. But the $200,000 bonus to the KDP Select fund is a signal of optimism. The fund is divided between the authors each month depending on their percentage of total books borrowed. One author, Carolyn McCray, earned $8,250 from the fund in December.
A report that mcDonalds in the UK is giving way books instead of toys in their Happy meals:
McDonald’s UK is to hand out around nine million popular children’s books with its Happy Meals, as part of a new partnership with publishing house HarperCollins. The promotion aims to get books into the hands of families and support mums and dads in reading with their children.
Of course, a book is never enough:
Each book comes with a finger puppet to help parents bring the stories to life for their children, and to encourage children of all reading abilities to use their imagination and create their own tales.
Also from the NY Times, a piece from Randall Stross on the challenges facing publishers and libraries in lending ebooks:
… we can also guess that the number of visitors to the e-book sections of public libraries’ Web sites is about to set a record, too.
And that is a source of great worry for publishers. In their eyes, borrowing an e-book from a library has been too easy. Worried that people will click to borrow an e-book from a library rather than click to buy it, almost all major publishers in the United States now block libraries’ access to the e-book form of either all of their titles or their most recently published ones.