Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why are we still arguing about this?

Yesterday, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal, claiming print was "here to stay," and that e-books will serve a role similar to audio books and nothing more.

I got pissed.

Not because it's true or anything, but more because of the obvious bias of the article's author. He's the writer of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist in general nonfiction. He's a proponent of the philosophy that we're losing the ability to think deeply as a result of having too easy access to tools that will do the thinking for you. I'm not saying I disagree with him on that, but the fact of the matter is, he has a definite lean toward getting rid of technology because it's ultimately detrimental in his eyes. This shines through in his conclusions in the WSJ article.

In it, he proposes that the decline in e-reader and e-book sales means that print is still king, that we've "misjudged the nature of the electronic book." It's just a more disposable paperback of lightweight entertainment, and thus, "real books" are going nowhere. What he fails to even mention is that print is still on the decline, as reported by Publisher's Weekly. But doing so, I'd bet, would weaken his headline.

Genre fiction is the bread and butter of the publishing industry. It always has been. Literary fiction, while worthy and often notable, doesn't sell in the same numbers the vast majority of the time. He's weighing them all equally when evaluating statistics about who has read print and e-books in the last year, when in fact, they're not.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think print is disappearing at all. But relegating e-books to a novelty format is a  mistake, perpetrated by ideals that don't match the direction in which society is marching. The two can, and should, live side by side, supporting each other, rather than competing against each other and attempting to tear down the other in order to bolster their sales.

I don't think he's ever going to believe that. I can only hope that the reading public is smart enough to see the holes in his arguments.

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