Tue 12 November 2019
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Publishing and the Digital Revolution
From Vooks to ebooks, from the iPad to the Google settlement, and from print-on-demand to new styles of writing, Edward Picot attempts to analyse the effects of the digital revolution on the publishing industry, and to make some educated guesses about how things may develop in the next few years.

Vooks and cultural decadence

Last October I received an e-mail headed "Introducing Vook":

The Vook Team is pleased to announce the launch of our first vooks, all published in partnership with Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. These four titles... elegantly realize Vook's mission: to blend a book with videos into one complete, instructive and entertaining story.
The e-mail also included a link to an article about Vooks in the New York Times:

Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading...
Note the rather loaded use of the words "lure", "crave", "fiddling" and "degrades". The phraseology seems to suggest that modern readers are decadent and listless thrill-seekers who can scarcely summon the energy to glance at a line of text, let alone plough their way through an entire book. If an artistic medium doesn't offer them some form of instant gratification - glamour, violence, excitement, pounding beats, lurid colours, instant melodrama - then it simply won't get their attention. But publishers have a moral duty not to pander to their readers' base appetites: the New York Times article ends by quoting a sceptical "traditional" author called Walter Mosley -

"Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow," Mr. Mosley said. "And our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we're watching television or doing stuff on computers."
In other words, reading from the printed page is better for your mental health than watching moving pictures on a screen: an argument which has been resurfacing in one form or another at least since television-watching started to dominate everyday life in the USA and Europe back in the 1950s. To some extent this is the self-defence of a book-loving and academically-inclined intelligensia against the indifference or hostility of popular culture - but in the context of a discussion of Vooks, it can also be interpreted as a cry of irritation from a publishing industry which is increasingly finding the ground being scooped from under its feet by younger, sexier, more attention-grabbing forms of entertainment.

For the full article

Source: The Hyperliterature
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