Thursday, August 02, 2007

Print Lives!

This has to be the dumbest thing I've seen on the web in the last few days, and I regularly check the Corner. Jeff Gomez, who is apparently some sort of digital/techno fanatic makes the bizarre argument that if some authors are dead, then perhaps books should be as well:
This brings up an interesting point: if consumers don’t seem to care that an author is dead, which proves that they only want the content -- the characters, the stories, the experience -- then they also won’t care how that content is delivered. After all, if they don’t mind the missing presence of the actual Robert Ludlum (a living, breathing person) then they certainly won’t miss the presence of the book itself (an inanimate object). In addition, a physical book has the potential to stand in between a reader and the content they desire. This is especially true in Ludlum’s case since his books are sometimes really large, and not nearly as portable as an electronic device. For instance, the other day on the train I saw a guy gingerly reading text on his iPhone, sitting next to a girl trying valiantly to keep the new doorstop-sized Harry Potter book balanced on her knee.

My first reaction is shock and disbelief that an author who is involved in marketing for Farrar, Straus Giroux along with the other publishers affiliated with VHPS, only just discovered that people continue to read authors after they are dead -- Flannery O'Connor?, Walker Percy? . . . Shakespeare? But beyond that, the status of the author as dead or alive has nothing to do with the optimal medium for reading his or her book.

His observation of someone struggling to balance Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows compared to another's ease of reading on his cell phone strikes me as dubious. I tried a little experiment and found I could easily balance the Potter book on my knee. I also tried Remembered Past by John Lukacs, another large book, and found it easy to balance as well. My cell phone is light and small but its screen only displays about sixteen words at a time. That would require a great deal of scrolling to read a fat book or even the type of essay printed in Harper's or The New Yorker. When people only read cell phones, they won't be reading books anymore. No sane person, especially one who is an author, longs for that day.

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