Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Aug 29th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Bookstores, e-readers and the Future of the Written Word

tom_honig_sA few months ago, I wrote a column about the written word, and wondered whether sentiments like “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” have forever transformed into texts like “U R gr8.”

The basic “harrumph!” quality of that column drastically missed the mark, somehow suggesting that the beauty of the written word was being replaced by something short and horrid, that the future of writing depended on the literary value of a teen’s text or a mini-blogger’s 140 words.

As it turns out, the matter is much more complicated. It’s true that one literary form has already met its demise: the genre once called “The Collected Letters of …” wherein readers were treated to backstage moments with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald or George Orwell or even Neal Cassady.  Today, writers are sending e-mails, not letters.

But the death of that one genre hardly means that the era of instant communication will necessarily kill the literary in general. But the future of the written word, nevertheless, has changed forever.

Enter the Kindle and the iPad. No question about it: I love my new iPad. Classic literature is available for free. Bestsellers are showing up on the new iBooks store. There’s even a Kindle app, so that entire library from Amazon is open as well.

On the same device, though, I can also play a video game, send an e-mail, watch a movie or engage in a dozen other time-wasters. I’ve read two books on the device so far, books that I downloaded and read without even leaving home.

In other words, it ain’t like sitting down and reading a book. And who knows what form new books will take in years to come: video imbedded in text; audio inserted at the beginning of a chapter; hyper-texted articles leading the reader away from the original story.

The implied change is dramatic. No one is watching closer than those who have been entrusted with making literature available to the general public: booksellers.

A trip to Bookshop Santa Cruz—or any other bookstore—isn’t really different from how it’s always been. But it’s changing, and more change is coming. I had interviewed Bookshop Santa Cruz general manager Casey Coonerty Protti a year ago, and at that time she described her biggest fear: “We can survive (now,) but if anything more happens, like e-books—that would take away 10 percent more of the business, we couldn’t survive.”

Well the e-books are here, but Protti isn’t about to fold her tent yet. “We’re not against change in this industry. We’re not digging our heads in the sand, either. I can see a lot of good in the Kindle and the iPad. But, if booksellers lose enough of our market to these devices … it would push independent bookselling to the brink.”

She predicts that Bookshop will be selling e-books itself by the end of the year, but there’s no telling where needed revenue will come from.  She also explained two areas of major concern:

Privacy. Who owns the book that you’ve purchased? Can downloaded books be killed off your portable device? That’s happened on the Kindle.

Will publishers become irrelevant? As e-books multiply, there will be more books that go direct from author to reader. That sounds great, but it’s the sometimes-forgotten role of editing and preparing copy that has been responsible for some of the best in literature.

And, what about the bookstore itself? Bookshop Santa Cruz—along with other independents like Capitola Book Café and even chain stores like Borders—provides a kind of temple for the reader. Imagine the loss if there are no stacks to wander among, no serendipity in discovering a book that you didn’t know existed, no “staff favorite” shelves to help discover new writers. Bookstores are like the best book reviewers: just looking around a bookstore is an exercise in finding out what that shop’s owner thinks is important and interesting.

What if the worst happens? What if bookstores go away? (Don’t think it’s impossible—just think of record stores).

Protti says that booksellers these days are coming up with all sorts of new programs: paid author events, writing classes and, in her case, tours that combine author talks and hikes to local spots of interest.

The tech revolution continues. It has

forever changed radio and then television. Newspapers continue their struggle to survive. Magazines became specialized publications. The music business was transformed by file sharing and 99-cent downloads.

Next up: Books.


Contact Tom Honig at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual