What would happen if the book was invented now?

Anyone who loves the printed word has to be concerned about the continuing decline of the “book” in printed form. Bookshops – which I will discuss in a future post – are declining in number.  In an October 2008 visit to Berkeley, California, I was shocked to discover that there was NO quality bookshop there – one of the great academic centres in the USA.  Cody’s Books had closed that previous June, although the empty store was still there, and there were a few bookshops, but astonishingly few – and nothing of note.  This is part of a much larger trend: the excellent (although imperfect) chain Borders, both here in Australia and of course in the USA, is now long gone…. replaced by … nothing.

Part of this change is the nature of the bookselling business itself, under threat from online behemoth sellers like Amazon.  Amazon, for example, although having NO physical presence here in Australia, is the largest bookseller to Australians, with tens of thousands of packages arrived each day.  And now we have the growth of the digital book, readable on a growing number of portable devices – some of them, I understand, even quite good.  (As an aside, Amazon is actively promoting its Kindles in Australia.)

Although I have probably many millions of words digitally stored in documents of various sorts, I continue to love, revere and respect the printed book. I look at the books that I own (and continue to purchase) and their very physicality reminds me of what is inside. It’s simply not the same with digital.  (I do acknowledge that moving my physical book collection is a major activity, unlike moving a digital collection – but that’s a separate discussion.)

For these reasons, I am pleased the following short video, simply entitled “Book”, has been produced. It treats the “book” as a new invention, extolling its virtues. It’s in Spanish, with English subtitles, but the presenter and the words are plenty communicative for us English speakers.

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