End of book culture?

In an interview with Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle, Larry McMurtry said that book culture is over.

Q: What will you talk about at Rice?

A: The end of the culture of the book. I’m pessimistic. Mainly it’s the flow of people into my bookshop in Archer City. They’re almost always people over 40.

I don’t see kids, and I don’t see kids reading. I think little kids love to have stories read to them, but when they get to 10 or 11 or 12, they run into this tsunami of technology: iPod, iPhone, Blackberries.

They don’t resist it, and it’s normal that they wouldn’t; it’s their culture. I’m not so sure they ever come back to reading. Some will, but most won’t.

Well, it depends largely on how you define a book.

If a book is sheets of paper bound together then yes, book culture is dying.

If a book is a format for data storage and retrieval, then books are doing fine.

I made the switch to ebooks years ago, and I like them better than the dead tree format. They’re books, even if they’re not printed on paper.  Words in a row that tell a story or convey information.  

I also haven’t been inside a brick and mortar book store in years.  Amazon supplies all the books, in any format, that I need.   

That said, I recently rediscovered books as art.  Books that are more than just words in a row.  Books that are works of art themselves, and can’t be rendered into electronic formats.  I don’t know how well those books sell, but they do well enough to stay published.

So maybe the book culture is splitting.  Electronic formats for words in a row, leaving traditional bound paper for what can’t be digitized.

After all, Television didn’t kill radio.  Radio transformed into something else. Maybe that’s what we’re seeing in the book industry.

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0 Responses to End of book culture?

  1. Lissa says:

    Totally agree, Alan. I love my Kindle, but if I did want a print book — the illustrated versions of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons are excellent examples — I’d get them off Amazon.com.

  2. Thirdpower says:

    Not me. While I do a fair bit of reading online/electronically, there’s little more I enjoy than kicking back w/ a nice piece of dead tree pulp in my hands and a snack on the table next to me.

    For purchases, I still do go the the B&M bookstores (as well as Amazon) because I tend to find things browsing I never would have thought to look for or that are ‘recommended’.