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.