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Recent poll on who's still reading books


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#16 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 05:09 PM

Yes and no. Format does affect content (and style).


And it affects writing style too. Jean Baudrillard wrote a lot on this, exaggerating sometimes, but I have found out from experimenting how much of it is true. He made the difference between writing on a typewriter and writing on a word-processing program, and how much the computer actually does for you. This is definitely true, because it allows you to speed, easily correct and then think that the same 'content' came out anyway. When I'm trying to write something that's going to last instead of evaporate, I even write it all out in handwriting, which is even less mechanically mediated than an old kind of typewriter. I only write first on the computer if I am sure it doesn't radically alter what I'm working toward, i.e., the removal of aspects of labour from something can affect the tempo and tone of something.

We are far too early into what may be the era of the e-book (I think that announcements of the demise of the old kind of book are still premature) to tell, but it’s possible that writers may write differently as and if the reading styles of the audience changes. Would this be as radical a change as the one after pre-printing press era, when poems and stories largely ceased to be heard in groups by a live audience and began to be read on the page by one solitary reader? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be significant differences, as time goes by, in reading from the printed page and reading from screens.


I think it's premature in the sense that the predictions are probably off, but not wrong. And I definitely think we already see much fiction, yes, even between hard book covers, that reflects the influence of cyberspace and a certain hyped-up sensation that goes with it. You can even find it in fine writers like Salman Rushdie. The difference in P.L.U. (People Like Us...that is, at Ballet Talk) as opposed to cyber-sites that are not steeped deeply in tradition, is that there is much less continuity, threads are rarely renewed, and there is a greater interest in the cyber-aspect of the discussion much of the time than there is in sites which are extensions from arts like ballet, opera, classical music, theater and even film by comparison. The contributors become much more like characters of some kind of cyber-punk fiction in the younger type of site than they ever do here. It's impossible to do that here, which is wonderful relief, but this is an example that is the same as Carbro reading 'Great Expectations' in whatever format. First, we are talking about someone, and many others here, who are familiar not only with fabulous live performances of all kinds, but also books that are not only physical, but even have illustrations on their old pages sometimes. That this kind of touch gets you closer to the original is indisputable, I think. But that person who is steeped in the tradition is not going to get infected with an addiction to e-books the way a teenager who spends hours a day 'friending' on MySpace, so that it would be according to the person whether 'Great Expectations' really stays 'Great Expectations' or is just another piece of screen flotsam.

The real issue in the future of e-books is very simple, being purely economic. If it becomes prohibitive to continue to afford books, and free to read them online, that plus the fact that sales of print publications is down and when a publisher is sold now, they are considered incredibly lucky. I'll look this up to get the exact facts. At any rate, it will be something to do with economic factors that determines whether the changeover into many online things affects some things more than others. If it is a radical change, no matter when, I would think it would definitely be an evolution into something as singular as dirac's example of moving from the oral tradition and other aspects of the pre-printing press world. Many people still choose to read a physical newspaper, but they don't have to. At this point, they still cannot choose to eat off a screen, which may explain why restaurants and cuisine are at least one of the arts which seem to be at their highest degree of refinement right now, and other arts seem to be floundering--reproductions will do for many people.

Edited to add: still searching about that big publisher sale in the last 2 years, but there's a lot on the web about the decline of print culture. Actually, Conde Nast appears to be doing well, I'm still searching....

#17 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 05:19 PM

http://www.graywolfp...sappearing_Ink/

In the meantime, this is good for those interested in such things.

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 05:40 PM

http://findarticles...._n9169528/pg_18

Here's an example of one literary form, poetry, which is enjoying a different kind of relationship with the digital age. There were several other articles I saw which discussed poetry and cyber-writing, so that one is led to believe that 'cybermonde' will affect some literary forms positively and others adversely. Pretty complex, I'd say.

#19 Ostrich

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:04 AM

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So many of them are quite happy to read whatever it is you push under their nose with enough praise.


Thanks for commenting, Ostrich. But..... maybe some of them were looking for guidance? Isn’t that a good thing? You were the one who was there, of course, but when I did a brief summer stint in a bookstore I encountered many well-intentioned customers who just needed some help.


Fair enough. However, as manager of a bookstore for about 1 year, I found that many people tend to base their judgement of the merits of a book solely on other people's opinions (often press opinions). So what I meant to say is that not only do many people buy a book on someone else's (possibly indiscriminate) praise, but they also end up judging it the same way. Not everyone, of course. I met a lot of very interesting and discriminating individuals too. And yes, I do my best to help those people truly looking for advice and guidance.

#20 papeetepatrick

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:44 AM

I found that many people tend to base their judgement of the merits of a book solely on other people's opinions (often press opinions).


Yes, there's no question but that there's a great deal of this, but not nearly just books--literally everything. Publicity is very powerful, and hacks can often use it much more effectively than geniuses, due to being willing to put much, and maybe nearly all, of their effort into that and that alone. I know I'm not anywhere nearly fully immune to it, and I'm a good bit more careful to choose than most. But this is not nearly always a negative--without publicity, Don DeLillo's Falling Man would surely not have been read by many people, and part of the publicity was that he already has such a big reputation.

#21 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 02:09 PM

And by "books," does this survey include, say, Zagat guides?


Good question. But even if they were including books like Zagat’s, I’d suggest that’s relevant, too – are people consulting guides between two covers, or are they going to the Internet instead? (Off the top of my head I think of TV Guide, which used to be a staple around my house when I was growing up. We stopped the subscription years ago, because the ready availability of television listings available from cable and the TV channel devoted to those listings made it superfluous. TV Guide still exists, barely, but in a much altered format.) If people stop buying guides like Zagat’s, that’s relevant, too. I do wish the article had more specifics.

I know I'm not anywhere nearly fully immune to it, and I'm a good bit more careful to choose than most. Publicity is very powerful, and hacks can often use it much more effectively than geniuses, due to being willing to put much, and maybe nearly all, of their effort into that and that alone.


Nor I. The following is not a literary example, but I’m still annoyed that I allowed myself to get excited about ‘Dreamgirls.’

Thank you for the links, I'll peek at them when I have a chance. Yes, it's true, nobody wants to buy a paper these days except Rupert Murdoch.

Poetry is more Internet-friendly than all but the shortest fiction, I would think, because many poems can be viewed complete on the screen and they are easily printable (unless you’re talking epic poetry).

So what I meant to say is that not only do many people buy a book on someone else's (possibly indiscriminate) praise, but they also end up judging it the same way.


I think that some people who are uncertain of their taste – you see this also in dance and the other arts, too – are more likely to defer to received opinion, and to feel that if they don’t like a book that has been widely praised, there must be something wrong with them, not the book, and they qualify their voiced opinions accordingly. (Sometimes they’re right, it is them.) These may not be the people you have in mind, however.

I may indeed try out a book because it receives raves, if they’re raves from good sources, but I do have enough confidence in my taste at this point in life to say I’m disappointed if I am disappointed. (Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Gilead’ comes to mind. I had very much admired ‘Housekeeping’ and was looking forward to reading this one, but I couldn’t get through it.)

#22 papeetepatrick

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 07:04 PM

This just occurred to me regarding e-books. I think it very likely that a computer, a sort of iBook, in the shape of a book, but that will get rid of all the harshness to the eyes, will be developed, and hundreds of thousands of downloadable books will be on it. It will be a luxury item for awhile, but it could easily even be made to have the tactile sensation of a book. I wouldn't be surprised to see it come out within the next 2 or 3 years, considering that it sounds relatively simple. It could, of course, even have a leather binding. It occurred to me because the wireless laptops are already the size of some books, and it sounds as though it will be a small feat. People's sentimentalities about these things won't last if there are buttons to push to turn the page, instead of scrolling and using cursors. This is somewhat :clapping: but we've been talking about media and content. I've often in the last year seen the phrase 'the youth culture is media-driven', and I've noticed this becoming more obvious with each passing year. If you think back to a year as ancient as 1999, you can see the exponential rise in cellphone use alone, and even then there was already plenty of it, just not 75% of the people on the street as it sometimes is now.

#23 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:04 PM

This just occurred to me regarding e-books. I think it very likely that a computer, a sort of iBook, in the shape of a book, but that will get rid of all the harshness to the eyes, will be developed, and hundreds of thousands of downloadable books will be on it. It will be a luxury item for awhile, but it could easily even be made to have the tactile sensation of a book. I wouldn't be surprised to see it come out within the next 2 or 3 years, considering that it sounds relatively simple.


It's true that high tech is a non stoppable force, but still i would be concerned about:

-Affordability- This things are really expensive,(at least for me). Iphones and the like are, and will be for a while
-Durability-They are very sensitive and easy to break. I see people loosing tons of information constantly because their phone dropped in the water, (talk about mother nature force vs. high tech force) or their laptops got a virus. Water is an issue where a regular book wins over its electric competitor.
-Human understanding on the high tech matters. For some, (me included), the less complicated an item gets, the better, and in that field, regular books can't get less complicated to manipulate and understand its use than, say, e-books...
:clapping:

#24 Helene

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:22 PM

Ebook manufacturers are going to have to solve the screen glare issue. For long and boring reasons, I had to take a conference call this morning from our outdoor common space, and I could barely make out what was on the screen of my laptop, which I'd have thrown in the swimming pool, if work didn't own it.


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