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June 16, 2008
Future Writers, Future Books
The Futurist online has an interesting think piece by Patrick Tucker on the possible future of writers, books, and writing in this century. Riffing primarily on a talk by Tim O’Reilly from earlier this year, Tucker visits interesting notions such as "the book as souvenir."
There's not a whole lot new here for Copyfight readers but it's an interesting checkpoint that draws together several ideas. One is that modern online writing (primarily blogging) is barely paying the bills even for fairly popular writers, particularly those dependent on ad clicks for revenue. Another is that those who are (still) reading books are interested in more than the content of the page - they're looking for connection and probably also participation of some form.
One way to take this is to think of the book as a part of, or maybe just an intro to, a set of experiences such as blogs, chat, conferences, parties, or formal training situations. Not all of these are appropriate for all published books, but genres such as science fiction have long connected writers to their fans through conventions and other gatherings, much less formally organized.
Finally, there's the question of whether or not the book-qua-book will survive all this evolution and revolutionary change. Will things like the Kindle put the book as we know it to rest? Probably not. As Michael Agger documents in his piece for Slate, the act of reading a physical paper book creates distinctly different - and notably pleasurable - mental states that just aren't found yet in any other reading device.
Nobody quite knows why this should be so - perhaps it's something to do with the book-as-artifact, or maybe it's as simple as the fact that we aren't subjected to the same kinds of distractions and interruptions with a physical book as we are subject to when reading online or with an e-book device. However you assign it, though, it seems that books in some form are likely to be around for quite a while. If only we can figure out how to keep publishing profitable...
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