Zapped!

As described at Medium, Amazon’s brick-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle sounds like the kind of place where books themselves are mere wallpaper.

“The Seattle store features a perimeter lined with packed bookshelves. However, the center (and heart) of the store has been given over completely to digital products… John Muttereditor of the bookstore-industry newsletter Shelf-Awarenessrecently spent 45 minutes observing customer behavior in the Seattle store. In that time, he didn’t see anyone paying any particular attention to the printed books…”

Amazon Bookstore

I’ll admit to never having set foot in the store. I’ve never been to Seattle. But if the above description is accurate, then we are witnessing a commercial model that completely alters our fundamental relationship with books. In this model, books themselves are no longer meant to enhance our understanding of the human condition.  Instead books—the bound truth of our collective conscience—become mere suggestion. Decoration. Intellectual pornography.

I have no problem with digital literature. I know digital readers have actually increased our access to and engagement with literature. But I get an uneasy feeling from the books-as-wallpaper model. Is this the footprint of tomorrow’s bookseller? For me literature derives much of its meaning from permanence—pages and ink, stitches and glue. Hand it over to to the ephemeral and the soul of literature is zapped!

 

8 thoughts on “Zapped!

  1. This is troubling to me. Does this say that I am a dinosaur though to have such an attitude? I still go for the physical book. I’m not digital-oriented. Perhaps it’s because I spend enough time in the computer, I don’t want to continue looking at a screen when I have my down time, literally. I also wonder about the light that emits from screens in general, how they affect our vision.

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  2. There are so many good reasons to not like digital literature, and “screen-eyes” is definitely one of them. But I love Kindle for a lot of reasons, too: immediacy, easy reading on one-handed metro rides, highlighting, etc. I have an easier time reviewing digital books than print ones, for this last reason. But… I resent this idea of relegating physical books to the sidelines. I never thought I’d like Kindle; and the truth is, I love it!

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  3. I guess there have always been people who used books as decor. Digital books serve a purpose and I confess to taking advantage of that medium. True book-lovers will always prefer paper books – I just hope there will be enough of us in future to keep them commercially viable.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I definitely love the one-handed reading style of digital books while strap-hanging. And while i resist marking up print copies i have a field day on digital books–makes reviewing easier. And you’re right about the history of books as an aesthetic.

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