Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Oct 21st
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

 

Field Work

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers explain how the harvest works, and what kind of wine to expect from this year's crop

 

Libra's Two Choices

Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Nut Kreations

Co-owner Craig Olsen goes nuts over nuts

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Friends who are wine club members of Martin Ranch invited us to the winery’s fun and festive annual barbecue, where the wine is flowing and the food just keeps on coming. Music and dancing are part and parcel of the action, and a good time is guaranteed.

 

Beer Bus

Santa Cruz’s new Brew Cruz, award winning ales, mole by el Jardín, and Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay