Monday, December 1, 2008

Book and Hammer

After the rise of the automobile, the railroad barons who stayed in business realized they were in the transportation business--not the train business. Movies didn't silence the radio. And as James Gleick smartly points out in his NYT Op-Ed piece on Sunday, bicycles "invented in a world without automobiles," still outsell cars.

Reading from a computer screen, listening to an audio download on your ipod, or cracking a hardcover-- it's all reading.

Not to be Pollyannish about it (beats cynicism!), but the digital paradigm shift is bringing about unprecdented opportunties for folks in the storytelling business.

One of the best discussions I've read so far on this is Gleick's piece. You might say he really nails the issue: "As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete."

Publishers may or may not figure out how to make money again (it was never a good way to get rich), but their product has a chance for new life: as a physical object, and as an idea, and as a set of literary forms. Read the article here.

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