"Our love of the print book is problematic," writes Bath Spa University's Rosie Maynard, "causing people left, right and centre to declare ‘THE BOOK IS DEAD’ or some variation thereof." A couple of years ago, everyone in what I call "the industry! the industry!" passed around a ridiculous video in which stop-frame animation gave us a whole bookshop's inventory dancing on the shelves after hours. "The magic of books!" all our weepy colleagues called it. Really? The magic is that they tap-dance around stores at night? Those sentimentalist reactions belied a deep fetishism, the kind of thing you still get from folks who are angrily defensive about print. And that's what Maynard is warning us about. "The nostalgia surrounding print books is phenomenal," she writes. "The word book is shackling our stories."—Porter Anderson
We need to change the way we think about our books
Tell someone that you recently finished a book and they will probably presume that you mean a traditional printed book, or maybe an ebook. How many people would consider that you might be talking about an advanced ebook, an audiobook or any one of the innovative new ways in which we now consume content?
The nostalgia surrounding print books is phenomenal, which could be part of the reason why many people would undoubtedly tell me that audiobooks, for example, are not real books. I think that for more innovative formats to be widely adopted by readers, it is crucial that we encourage everyone to think beyond the traditional notion of reading.
Stop criticising new formats
The growth of the audiobook industry is proof that "readers" are happy to consume content in a variety of ways. However, new digital formats are frequently in the firing line, often cast aside and deemed not as good as real books, when they don’t need and/or weren’t trying to be like print books in the first place.
As we move forward, we need to encourage readers to recognise that different formats are meant to be different. Each format is good for different things. No one format is superior.
Our love of the print book is problematic, causing people left, right and centre to declare ‘THE BOOK IS DEAD’ or some variation thereof. I cannot be the only person who is getting tired of this. New digital formats have enough of a hill to climb without being accused of playing a part in the demise of print books.
Let new formats be new
The word book is shackling our stories. For their ability to display words on a page, printed books are hard to beat. But, as we have learnt, digital has opened up endless possibilities for our stories. While many publishers are content and comfortable producing ebooks, it's clear that digital has a lot of potential that has been left untapped.
So, my fingers are crossed that the next five years will see our stories packaged in more exciting new digital formats, and that readers will be ready to embrace them when they arrive.
This is an entry in our series of more than 30 "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones revisited his call for the FutureBook community to reflect on five years of the digital dynamic, "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response has been robust, and we thank all our manifesto writers. See their articles here.
Their presentations are two high points in an engaging range of perspectives from many parts of the industry.
- Please plan to join us on 4th December at The Mermaid in London for the fifth-anniversary FutureBook Conference.
- And bookings now are going very fast for our inaugural Author Day (#AuthorDay) in central London, 30th November, the kick-off to a week of #FutureBook15 events.
- A manifesto for new formats | Rosie Maynard
- A manifesto for the open book | Mithu Lucraft
- A manifesto for new business models | Jaya Jha
- A manifesto for digital book designers | Azim Ozakil
- A manifesto on the publishing workplace | Maria Vassilopoulos
- A manifesto for all writers | Carla Douglas
Main image - iStockphoto: Sergey Nivens