Who Cares About the Container? I’m Going Digital!
Okay, so we now know the difference between formless content and definite content. You may be saying to yourself (again, aloud on a subway full of passengers), “So there are a few books out there that won’t conform to the times… most everything we read is formless content anyway, right? I say let’s go Fahrenheit 451 on literature and burn everything except the art books, the ones with the diagrams, and all those crazy, self-aware titles. We’ll keep a few necessary titles in paper format, and we won’t have so many heavy boxes when it comes time to move houses.”
The woman reading the Danielewski book pipes up once more. “Except that eReaders and tablets hurt my eyes, and the batteries die, and author’s can’t sign a digital copy of their book, and all my publisher friends will be out of a job.”
True. But, Craig Mod has a plan: Let’s stop publishing the disposable, formless content books that waste trees. Let’s focus our efforts on making beautiful, durable books that embrace “the book” (that is, pBook) as a container. The eReaders and tablets are getting better at reducing the strain on our eyes and extending battery life; they can have the dregs of the pile — the countless disposable novels you read and then leave on the curb for someone else to take. Let the publishers focus on higher quality products that consumers will pay more for, knowing their product will last.
Is that the best solution, Craig? Will the general public go for it? I’m a bit of a bibliophile, so perhaps I shouldn’t comment. Publishers Weekly reports that sales of e-ink devices (the non-tablet eReaders) are on the decline, so maybe people are clinging to their paperbacks more than we predicted. Maybe they love the feel of the embossed cover, or the smell of the pages as they leaf through its contents. Maybe they want to crack the spine or spill coffee on the dust jacket, just to claim the book as their own — a well-worn piece of art that is a symbol of the wonderful journey the reader and the author took together.
Of course, the statistic may be attributed to the lowering costs of tablets (PW reports that in a year tablets as powerful as today’s iPads will cost around $70). So, pBook sales are declining, and eReader sales are declining. Maybe everyone is reading on tablets now, or (and, it is more likely the case) people are simply reading less. We’re distracted by games on our tablets and computers, we’re too busy in this fast-paced world to stop and pick up a book, and we’ve got no patience any longer, because the movie version only takes two hours to tell the same story. I’m even willing to wager that 90% of the people who began reading this article stopped reading before ever reaching the “Content Versus Container” section, some four paragraphs in.
eReaders may be getting better at what they do, but one thing remains clear: eBooks will never replace pBooks, because eBooks present the content differently than pBooks. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, can be viewed as a novel, graphic novel, eBook, live-action movie, animated movie, and has been put on as a musical, and with each of these renditions the experience is different. One cannot know the intricate details in which Tolkien describes The Shire simply by looking at a painting of The Shire, nor might one experience the same emotions from reading the novel after watching the movie. These modes of story telling and depiction are vastly different; eBooks, while they do emulate the book as best they can, do not convey the same experience as pBooks.
More un-eReadable Books: