Digital media offer tremendous advantages in terms of timely information delivery and breadth of information dissemination.
The Web, more so than any previous medium, is a genuinely democratic one. Well, at least for those who can afford the hardware, software, and, preferably, high-speed connection.
But the Web is also flighty, frequently fickle, and often feckless.
Columbia Journalism Review’s (CJR) relentless (as relentless as one can be every other month) coverage of digital media’s impact on especially traditional print journalism should be mirrored for the book industry.
As CJR’s coverage of legacy newspapers repeatedly makes clear, the internet and its content is more often than not akin to a meal intended to satisfy at the moment of consumption, not to nourish for a lifetime. Of course no one meal can be expected to accomplish the latter.
But tied to the snacking function is the Internet’s relentless prodding of its content users and creators. The Web wants to be clever and it very much wishes to be in-the-moment.
Books strive to be thoughtful. They are timely in the timelessness sense of the word, and much less so of-the-moment.
Books are not so much in the News business as they are in the Olds business.
And so, in part, the value of books to Accumulators, Decorators, and Collectors.
Accumulators may not seek out or need the advice books afford: they’re already stockpiling texts in fortress fashion. The Accumulator likes books because, well, they’re something else to gather.
Nicely bound or impressively printed, the Decorator includes books for their appearance within an ambience. I think there’s a Woody Allen movie satirizing this. And if there isn’t, there should be.
And the Collector harvests books in the drive to become the connoisseur. To enhance, to sharpen, to fine-tune, and to deepen their aesthetic, their knowledge, and to expand more fully their scope of understanding for that which they collect.
HOW – in what form – books manifest themselves, of course, is another matter.