Dear Authors, Your Next Book Should Be a Book

Via Joe‘s Twitter, I see that friend and founder of NYU Local and kommons Cody Brown has written a guest post for TechCrunch called Dear Authors, Your Next Book Should be an App, Not an iBook.

Now, Cody and I have gone back and forth on similar stuff in the past; my view is that he’s an extremely sharp social media innovator, but that his bias in that direction leads to a sort of techno-triumphalism I don’t think makes a whole lot of sense (Re: His occasional assertion that journalism as a profession will soon die out because “a public can talk to itself.”). Here, I think he’s done it again.

I mean, read the title. It’s kind of an odd one, isn’t it? Imagine if someone wrote, “Dear Filmmakers, Your Next Movie Should be a Video Game.” Or, “Dear Playwrights, Your Next Play Should Be a Movie.” Cody’s right to point out that we’re going to see some really interesting innovations in how to read from the iPad and similar devices, but I don’t see how those innovations can displace books entirely. What about the tactile sensation of reading? The physical artifact of a book? The way you can chart your progress through it by the movement of the bookmark?

Personally, I will continue to write for print whenever I would prefer to see my ideas expressed in print. The possibilities of the iPad app that Cody raises–greater interactivity and so on–are interesting, but I don’t see them as reasons why the iPad is a superior platform of communication to the book. Because Cody brings up George Orwell in an example, let me pose the question: Would Homage to Catalonia have been better if Orwell had access to an iPad and included stuff like hyperlinks, interactive word puzzles, chapters the reader could edit and various other doodads? I’m going to say “no,” because it wouldn’t have been Homage to Catalonia.

One more note: in general, assertions like “technological advancement [Y] will replace mode of communication/expression [X]” should be approached with great caution, because they tend to omit an important clause. The full sentence should read: “Technological advancement [Y] will replace mode of communication/expression [X] for the affluent yuppies who can afford it.” Even then–for the reasons I mentioned above–it’s not entirely convincing, but at least now it’s more honest. I mean, the low-end iPad retails at $499, for chrissake! The technology will inevitably get cheaper, but is it ever going to be as cost-effective as a $7 paperback or a $0 library card?

If you’re interested in seeing the real future of real ink-on-paper books, I suggest you click here.

Lightly edited for clarity, and because I just got a big traffic bump off of this. Apparently I should pick fights with my social media mogul friend more often.

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10 Responses

  1. 100% agree.

  2. […] Last minute addition: Resnikoff’s “Dear Author, Your next book should be a book.“ […]

  3. I don’t think this is an either/or proposition. I enjoy reading books in hardcover and paperback format. I also look forward to reading books that utilize the tools that the iPad brings them, which to me opens all all sorts of possibilities to drive a narrative forward.

    Predicting the demise of either format is likely to be a losing proposition. I happen to think there is room for both.

    • Yeah, I agree. I come down a little hard on iPads here, but yours is the point I was basically trying to make.

  4. Yes, as Anthony said, this isn’t an Either/Or position.

    It’s cliche to an Nth degree to declare any medium is dead, especially the book.

    What I’m suggesting is that if you’re an author and you’re serious about publishing on the iPad, you ought to be thinking far beyond the iBookStore.

  5. I absolutely agree with you! Very well put :) On top of that, I think there are enough people on this planet that all these medias can thrive. There are so many people (myself included) who would never stop reading to keep publishing alive, yet enough people who are into other various medias to keep those going, too. It’s the same idea with television and the internet. I always chuckle when I read that ‘4 million viewers’ is considered a ‘bad’ rating. Perhaps the reality is that the era of global dominance of one media over all the others is over, and that were we to simply adapt to it, everyone would get what they love best.

  6. To compare the price of an iPad to a book would have to be against the total cost of every book/magazine/newspaper you ever bought no? In the least, the cost of those things over the course of three or four years, or however long you think the device will last.

    • Fair point, but then you also have to include maintenance charges, replacing obsolete devices, etc. Seems to me like a library card and/or regular trips to a used bookstore are still cheaper.

    • Also: Keep in mind that not all the eBooks themselves would be free.

  7. […] Annie Werner–of WTF Gallatin Majors–has posted a typically sharp response to Cody and me. I’ll admit she basically nails me here: “What about the tactile sensation of reading? The […]

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