Friday, June 02, 2006

The Question, Again

I'm sorry to bail on y'all again, but I just don't have time to give the question and the compilation of comments the attention they deserve today -- I've taken on a few too many projects and I have to catch up a bit. So I'll give you the weekend to continue to register your comments on the question I posed on Wednesday:

Q: What is the future of bookselling?

I'll post your thoughts and mine on Monday. Some other aspects of the question to consider: How will developments like Buy Local First, Slow Food, and the organic movement affect bookselling, if at all? Will author tours mean that writing will become more performative, and how will that affect bookstores? What will the bookseller of the future look like, or is there room for both the businessperson and the idealist? Thinking outside the chain vs. indie question, how will all bookstores be changed by new technologies, new demographics, new forms of literature and information? Can we even make viable general predictions about a retail landscape as vast and varied as that of the United States, and if not, what can we predict on a local level? On a larger scale, what did we read/use before the book, and what might come after the book?

Interrogate your bookish friends, or your non-bookish friends. Quote the experts. Speculate wildly.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts. See you Monday!

4 comments:

Andy Laties said...

This question looks like a page of notes to yourself in preparation for the writing of a book proposal.

It also reminds me of the utopian novel circulated in France in the 1770s -- banned; incredibly popular -- in which a guy wakes up Rip Van Winkle-like in the year 2440 and gets a tour of Paris Of The Future. Of course, the book is actually an idealistic and acerbic commentary of Life Today Under King Louis. As futurology it's totally absurd.

I wrote and then forced myself to cut out this note, to page 33 in REBEL BOOKSELLER:

Page 33. The end of books? Thesis: “Publishers are facing a new kind of reader, one who absorbs information from multiple sources simultaneously. As we move from the ‘don’t bother me, I’m reading the newspaper’ generation to the ‘yeah, got it’ sound-bite generation, publishers will have to adapt to a multimedia culture bombarded with information but lacking in knowledge….As empowered members of an increasingly multitasking interactive generation that lives in electronic communities, audiences are expecting unprecedented form and delivery of content and services. Only time will tell if the traditional publishing companies are up to the challenge.”—Chuck Martin, “The Nine Dynamics of Future Publishing,” Blueprint to the Digital Economy: Creating Wealth in the Era of E-Business, Edited by Don Tapscott, Alex Lowy and David Ticoll (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998): 154-155.
The end of books? Antithesis: “It is interesting to note how often a technological development—such as Gutenberg’s—promotes rather than eliminates that which it is supposed to supersede, making us aware of old-fashioned virtues we might otherwise have either overlooked or dismissed as of negligible importance. In our day, computer technology and the proliferation of books on CD-ROM have not affected—as far as statistics show—the production and sale of books in their old-fashioned codex form. Those who see computer development as the devil incarnate (as Sven Birkerts portrays it in his dramatically titled Gutenberg Elegies) allow nostalgia to hold sway over experience. For example, 359,437 new books (not counting pamphlets, magazines and periodicals), were added in 1995 to the already vast collections of the Library of Congress.”—Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading (New York: Penguin, 1996): 135.
The end of books? Synthesis (and new Thesis): “In The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, Sven Birkerts warns that increasing multimedia experiences at the expense of written text risks ‘language erosion,’ decline of analytic and logical thought, ‘flattening of historical perspectives,’ and ‘the waning of the private self.’ Texts viewed as ‘difficult,’ predicts Birkerts, will increasingly be glossed over (which is, in fact, happening as students are both unwilling and unable to grasp the more subtle meanings or attend long enough to read them). As we forget or ignore the complexities of history’s lessons, a bland ‘electronic collectivization’ will render us ripe for political totalitarianism.”—Jane M. Healy, Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds—and What We Can Do About It (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998): 150. Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994): 128-130.
New Antithesis: “In his book The Religion of Technology, [science historian David] Noble traces the interweaving of the technical arts with the millenarian spirit and shows that from the twelfth century on, technology has been perceived as a tool for precipitating the promised time of perfection. On the eve of the scientific revolution, Johann Andreae, Tommaso Campanella, Francis Bacon, and Thomas More each envisioned a man-made New Jerusalem—a fictitious city in which technology would play a key role. Andreae’s Christianopolis [1619], Campanella’s City of the Sun [1602], Bacon’s New Atlantis [1626], and More’s Utopia [1516] were all versions of idealized Christian communities notable for their use of technology. Today too, champions of cyberspace suggest that their technology will create a new utopia—a better, brighter, more ‘heavenly’ world for all. With contemporary cyber-utopianism, the…technology is digital rather than mechanical, but the dream remains the same.”—Margaret Wertheim, The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace (New York: Norton, 1999): 42-43. David Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention (New York: Knopf, 1997): 5.
All these, trumped by NEW SYNTHESIS: “Of man only the brain would remain, beautifully encased in a duroplast: a globe equipped with sockets, plugs and clasps….The brain case could be connected to any number of appendages, apparatuses, machines, vehicles….Then…transcepting would do away with crowds and congestion, the consequence of overpopulation. Channels of interbrain communication, whether by cable or radio, would make pointless all gatherings and get-togethers, excursions and journeys to attend conferences, and therefore all personal locomotion to whatever location, for every living being could avail itself of sensors and scanners situated over the whole expanse of human habitation….At this point I stopped and remarked that the authors of these papers were surely deranged. Trottelreiner replied coldly that I was a bit hasty in my judgments…the criterion of common sense was never applicable to the history of the human race.”—Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress, Translated by Michael Kandel ([1971] New York: Continuum, 1974): 135-136.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nerd! How about adding The King's English in Salt Lake to your list of indies? Cheers!

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