Are books irrelevant?

jost amman card of booksAaron Wall says books are irrelevant “for all but true enthusiasts, desperate people seeking a manifesto for life change, or those who read as an escape.”

I don’t think it’s like that. Books and online content are not an either/or kind of thing. Most people “surf” the web and scan pages for an items here and an item there. The web is great for that, among other things. But it’s not so good for reading a hundred thousand words in sequence. Although there was a lot of hand wringing about a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll that showed a quarter of Americans didn’t read a book last year, the real news is that three-quarters of Americans still read books. Historically, that’s a very high percentage. You probably know someone who read a novel or a memoir recently. Did they read it online?

I didn’t think so.

Books are a perfected technology. The earliest books, much more than a millennium old, are still perfectly usable, while your computer files from twenty-five years ago may be useless. But I’m not here to put down the web or computer technology. It’s all good.

The point is, it’s true the book industry is in trouble. But the book itself is not. It’s a proven survivor. No worries.

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  1. I learned this the hard way. Way back when I bought my first computer, I bought several of the art CD’s that were out on the market. Since I am a serious buyer of art books, I thought to save shelf space. Well, not only was the viewing experience not as good as with a book, the systems changed and now, I can’t watch most of them. I have CD’s on the National Gallery, one of California artists, another on the Barnes collection. The Barnes collection was not only expensive but was a crock from the get-go because of all the restrictions. You can’t save images to your HD and you can’t print and you can barely skip around on the CD – guess Barnes wanted to control the viewing experience even from beyond the grave. I save a lot of info to my computer but when I want to really read something, I still turn to books.

  2. Great post! I am quite a geek and gadget-freak. However, when I read books, I still read the paper variety. I bought a couple of e-books, but quickly moved back to the paper ones. They just aren’t convenient enough.

  3. Book’s hard drives don’t fail, and their image resolution is better.

  4. I agree, Shantanu. E-books have never done it for me.