Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore provoked in me some thoughts about books and the industry at large. E-books would no doubt become the predominant medium by which we read, whether we like it or not. They might hurt the independent bookstores in the short run like chain stores putting the small guys out of business. But as e-books become available through indies, books from independent presses that big chains often overlook would be made available to readers. What really kills books is not the platform by which we access the books. It’s the continually changing social psyche. In other words, I’m not talking about the textile pleasure of turning the pages and holding the book. That’s a whole different issue. Technology seamlessly mimics the reading experience but it doesn’t change the feeling of the reading experience. So if I’m talking about missing the smell of books and the feel of holding a book, it’s a matter of nostalgia.
What kills books/reading is largely on our short attention span and distraction. In a society poised for instant notifications of our friends’ doing, for obsessively updating social media, for quick consumerism, books are at grossly disadvantage because of the long delay factor. We no longer read newspaper. We abandon the stories for headlines. We skim for what we find important. We look for the pertinent information. Who has time to read a book from cover-to-cover? How often are we distracted by social media and instant messages when we try to get some reading done? This is the reason I’m so defensive of my private reading time, knowing I could get carried away by texting.