Yes, Virginia | Page 44 | Newberry

Yes, Virginia

It seems to be “Call up Uncle Blogsy Week” at the Book fair, and among all the other calls about what we take and where we take it and how we take it, there have been questions about when we take it.  One of these moved outside the banana box.

“Will you be taking books after Labor Day?” said the caller.

“Oh, yes,” I said, waiting to hear how much she had to send over.

What she said, though, was “So you ARE going to have a Book Fair in 2012?”

“As far as anybody’s told me,” I said, “Yes, we are.”

“I didn’t know,” she sighed.  “They’re all saying the book is dead.”

Well, friends, Uncle Blogsy has not said the book is dead.  If you’ll all just wait until I do, we should be in business for a good long while yet.  Even if the book WERE dead, tuna fricassee, did you really think that would keep me from selling them?  Uncle Blogsy still sells 8-track tapes and slide carousels, y’know.  And THOSE rely on technology.

See, the book, for all that it is vulnerable to fire and water, cockroaches and teething puppies, is a rather adaptable product.  Basically, you need eyes, light, a brain to take in the words, and enough fingers to turn the pages.  As long as people can read, a book will remain one option among the many available.

I’ve read different theories about what’s going first.  Will it be technical books, since the electronic form can be updated whenever advances are made?  Or will it be light reading, since no one will want to pay $7.99 for a paperback romance when they can buy a monthly subscription or something and get the latest romance tales beamed to their e-reader or e-pad of choice?

The thing is that even if tomorrow every romance publisher in the world decided to print electronic fluff only, the books would still exist.  The NEW ones might be e-romances only, but the old ones, even if their text is available online, will still be around.  And someone will buy them, until such time as we all forget how to turn pages.

The print book also has an advantage that the ebook lacks :permanence.  Once printed, the page is fixed.  No publisher or computer service can decide that remark about books and lovers on page 266 is inappropriate, and rewrite it.  The book a government decides is too subversive to allow people to read can only be confiscated and burned, it cannot be deleted at the press of a button.

A brilliant but somehow unpublished science fiction novel I have read concerns an evil galactic empire which controls its citizens not only by limiting literacy but by making sure that computer systems in neighboring worlds are incompatible, so literature cannot spread beyond its area of origin.  Retooling thousands of computers is beyond the reach of the rebel forces, but they can smuggle books and magazines so ideas can make it past the barriers.

In short, hardboiled ham sandwich, we’re going to have a Book Fair in 2012.  There will be books for everyone who still remembers how to use ‘em.

And for those who don’t, have I got 8-tracks to sell you!

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