Monday, April 20, 2009

On Books and Newspapers

Over at the Guardian, robert McCrum worries that the decline of newspapers may foreshadow similar crises in book publishing.

The internet revolution, which has brought low so many American newspapers, from Seattle to Chicago, must surely threaten conventional book publishing. Agreed: new books in copyright are very different animals from daily newspapers. Elsewhere, however, there are alarming parallels between newspapers and publishing. Both, essentially, have given away their all-important content for nothing: newspapers through online services, books through the mass digitisation of the contents of the world's greatest copyright libraries in the "Google initiative". Both have found it difficult to think laterally, or even creatively, about the immense power mobilised by organisations like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Even new titles are vulnerable to the Kindle and the ebook. You may say, as people often do, that you have never seen anyone reading an ebook on the tube or the bus. Fair enough. But in any big American city today, you will find hundreds of younger readers in bars and coffee shops happily immersed in their Kindle or its equivalent. No question: books are facing their "iPod moment".

Go here for the full article.

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