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.