- Of course books will survive. So will newspapers. This is a given and any ominous warnings to the contrary can — and should — be dismissed as paranoid, even delusional.
So why does this piece give me such pause?
Because I just got back from spending Christmas with my family. (I mean that literally, just got back — remember when "Christmas break" meant two weeks of vacation? Someone explain to me why the hell we grow up.)
I was astounded to find that my mother has suddenly embraced eBooks. She hasn't exactly gotten rid of all her paper books — though she did shock me by informing me she'd passed many of her favorites on to my aunt. Instead, Mom has loaded her Palm Pilot with all her favorite novels and discovered the joys of always reading in good light, with crisp lettering, being able to mark her place quite easily and always come back to it, and best of all, the "book" never gets any heavier no matter how many thousands of pages it contains.
I would have given no credence whatsoever to the notion of eBooks replacing paper books, and I still don't, entirely — the two can certainly coexist. But when an avid book fetishist like my mother abandons her preferred format for the convenience of an eBook, statements like "People prefer to curl up with a book rather than with a squarish or rounded version" start to look a little shaky to me.
The Associated Press acknowledges as much in its year-end wrap-up of all things book-related.
For all the industry's efforts to be noticed online, whether through promotional videos or targeted e-mail blasts, publishers and readers alike resist the full Internet revolution. The Sony Reader was just the latest false start for the e-book market, and computers remained a cold place to curl with a good story.
Before you Luddites start with the triumphant shrieking, however, consider this:
[President and chief executive of the American Association of Publishers, Patricia] Schroeder and others acknowledge that an all-digital industry, however unlikely, makes business and environmental sense. No more delivery costs or worries about how many books to print. No more copies sitting in warehouses, shipped to and from stores or destroyed altogether.
"You would create a world where essentially all books are always available to all people,'' says Jack Romanos, CEO of Simon & Schuster. "And you would save millions of trees.''
It's only a matter of time, it seems, before somebody hits on a universally appealing format, a la the DVD, that will take the eBook from partial obscurity (remember when you knew maybe a handful of people, if that many, who owned Laserdiscs?) to mainstream acceptance.
- Children of Men, the new film directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and starring Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, which is based on the novel by P. D. James, is earning rave reviews across the board.
With a 93% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Slate calling it "the movie of the millennium" (granted, the millennium is only six years old, but still...), the film has only opened in limited release but should go wide soon. So there's still time to read the book before you see the movie.
- Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker selects the Best Comics of 2006. Among his selections:
- Best Independent-Publisher Comic: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley — "It's a slacker version of heroism, a critique of such comics while also a completely charming, heroic-quest saga..."
- Best Graphic Novel: The Left Bank Gang by Jason — "The Norwegian artist-writer Jason's anthropomorphized animals walk erect and mix literature with comic books. The tone is somber; the content hilarious."
- Best Reissue, Part 1: Walt and Skeezix, Book Two: 1923–1924 — "The artist Chris Ware has edited and designed these reprintings with his usual immense care for detail, a quality echoed in King's work, which could not be further from superhero comics. Instead, you get a portrait of small-town life that's the equal of any number of highly praised regional American novelists and short-story writers."
- Best Reissue, Part 2: Popeye Vol. 1: "I Yam What I Yam" — "E.C. Segar's great sailor-man character is known to many in his animated-cartoon incarnation, but it was his introduction as a comic-strip character that established Segar as a first-rank storyteller and artist."
- Wonkette has all the details of the National Rifle Association's graphic novel, Freedom In Peril: Guarding the 2nd Amendment in the 21st Century, along with images and a plot synopsis that will have you rushing to buy your copy now... before the Jew-run cabal of hippies, illegal immigrants, and the media elite steal your basic right to shoot the hell out of anything and everything with a semiautomatic rifle!
÷ ÷ ÷
Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.
The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.
Books mentioned in this post