Note to readers

This is a blog that I'm required to keep that's full of unedited, near stream-of-consciousness reactions to similarly required and related readings in a graduate course in N.C. State University's Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program. The way these posts are written help me interrogate and understand what's going on in our readings. I'm identifying what's troublesome so that I can give it more thought, but the posts aren't written in a style that's productive for audiences outside of our class to read. That's by design. I start with contestation, then spend heavens only knows how long researching, recutting, and reevaluating so that I can try and see what potentially productive readings I can extract from these source for use in my own work's contributions back to the field. Comments encouraged, but please, you'll likely need a thick skin if your work is quoted here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kindle : Amazon :: iPad : Apple :: Nook : B&N :: Codex : ?????

The book isn't obsolete.  I find myself wondering what would happen now if we only had eBooks and someone had just discovered how to turn paper writings from scrolls to bound volumes.  What would happen?  (Aside: Coincidentally, eBooks, at least on iOS, recently gained the ability to mock scrolls.)

If a single business entity had exclusive rights to binding books, what would the commercials look like?  What's the sales pitch?  We'd see the same beautiful people at the beach, this time with some person happily reading their book as their kid spills ocean water on the person reading a Kindle next to them.  We'd see someone reading through an airplane takeoff after seeing an iPad user scolded by an air steward.  We'd see someone lending a book to someone else for easy reading.  We'd see people in parks, or hiking, or in blackouts still reading while others were out of luck.

I'm not arguing that books are better than eBook readers.  I'm saying that the format is marketable, and that there's nobody with a vested interest to champion them.  For whatever reason, nobody's hiring a Billy Mays equivalent for the codex the way they are for eBook readers.  Because the format's in the public domain, there's no incredibly vested interest.

Beyond consumers (who buy, not market), who might change this?  Honestly, there are only two sources, I think.  One is the paper mill, but I don't know that book paper is the biggest moneymaker right now.  Where does our paper come from anyway?  The other is the big book store, but that's down to essentially Barnes and Noble, right?  And they have a truly vested interest in pushing Nooks and eBooks now.  I guess book clubs might be another source, but how much growth could they expect, best case?  Probably not worth the marketing cash.

And obviously there are authors, yet authors aren't really hurt if people buy eBooks instead of codices.  In fact, used sales (remember when the Authors' Guild (?) sued Amazon over selling used books next to new?) mean they get paid less often with printed pages than eBooks, at least legally.

(Which brings me back to asking why nobody lends their Kindle.  Illegal?  I think it might be, but it's easier to share an entire library of books now than it used to be, not harder, yet the expensive hardware seems to make lending a much less frequent activity.)

I don't know who would champion books, but I do know I haven't seen an advert from them recently.  In fact, the only place I experience adverts for books at all in the mainstream media is on talk radio (sports) and on ABC's Castle, both from publishing houses/authors who probably don't really care which format you use.  Strange that a show about a book author would bring in book readers, though apparently the fictitious author has ghostwriters who have written some real world bestsellers.

I suppose I should realize that the free market suggests that the codex still has more of the market than it should right now simply from inertia, and that once its use drops below a sort of natural threshold, some entity will start marketing it to make the money left on the table.  I just wish they'd start marketing now to slow the descent.  But I clearly have my biases.