The “Long Goodbye” of the Print Book
In a piece highlighting the massive success of Tony Blair’s memoirs, the Guardian once again bemoans the potential death of bookshops and the printed book. But, finally, near the end of the article they get to the crux of it:
… paradoxically, the age of digitisation is both a golden age of ink (virtual and electronic as much as ink-and-paper) and a boom time for narrative, in many media, on countless “platforms”, from blogs, audiobooks and trashy paperbacks to television soaps, Facebook crazes, and – yes – hardback memoirs. Not since the late 16th century has there been such a bonanza in new prose. The scale of the global audience and its extraordinary new means of self-expression get forgotten amid the legitimate anxieties over the consequence of “free content”.
Bookshops are changing. The worst are becoming novelty item and greetings card boutiques, but the good ones are selling more books than ever, and the publishers, cursing the climate and moaning as usual about the state of the harvest, show few signs of cutting back on their output. Blair’s success suggests that the book-buying public may talk digital but actually buy analogue. This could be Gutenberg’s long goodbye.
And this is the real point. The Internet revolution has brought in a new vibrancy to both reading and writing. And this revitalization has inevitably brought more and more people to books be they electronic or otherwise.
And ultimately the question isn’t the success of books in a specific form but of books themselves. The growth of reading. And the ebook success story is further proof that despite all the other activities open to us, modern humans still make time for reading. And that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Thus, this “long goodbye” the Guardian speaks of may rapidly transform into a long series of new hellos.