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Saturday, May 14, 2011

What is a book?

Confusion in the publisher ranks

The book business is struggling with the revolution, comments paidcontent, a British firm that tracks latest trends in the digital media.  This hardly world-shaking conclusion was reached at the inaugural World E-Reading Congress in London, where various publishing executives produced a series of comments on the current chaos within their ranks.

"The print book market is in all kinds of turmoil at the moment," said digital publishing head Henry Volans of Faber & Faber, in a masterly statement of the obvious.

'We no longer know the answer to the question: "What is a book?"' -- or so some said, though Palgrave Macmillan digital director Alison Jones produced a helpful defnition.

"The printed book is a technical accident," she said. "For many centuries it was the most convenient way of capturing and communicating information.  But the industry has built itself around that technical accident.  It's difficult to extricate ourself from that."

Those damn monks didn't know what they were doing when they produced those hand-copied manuscripts, obviously.  And Johann Gutenberg has a lot to answer for.

The funniest story to emerge from the mass brow-beating was that of Faber's adaptation of The Dosac Files for iPhone, which was so much more like a total experience than merely reading a book that it was nominated for a TV Bafta award.

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