Saturday, November 04, 2006
My posts on new publishing technologies - here and here - as well as my Sunday Times article on the subject were about, primarily, POD - publishing (or printing) on demand. Using POD, books can be printed and bound only when they are sold. Bookshops could thus be reduced to a series of screens for browsing and a few POD machines into which the customer inserts his credit card. But already, it seems, I am behind the times. A British software company has a system that makes books readable on mobile phones. Some publishers seem quite excited about this as it is seen as a way of reaching younger readers. The words are viewed one at a time, as phrases or as a continuous scrolling line. For me, this might work for poems, but would seem to be an unnecessarily challenging approach to Proust. Never mind, people only read Proust when they are ill, a fact that explains the poor asthmatic's entire critical reception. In addition, of course, healthy teenagers are unlikely to read Proust and are happy to do anything on mobile phones. I also now discover Project Gutenberg, a site that provides downloadable books online and, yes, Proust is in there. The downloads are free. Obviously there are copyright issues, but most of the Gutenberg list seems to be out of copyright. There is, it seems, a technophile obsession with going something about the book, an object which has so far remained stubbornly immune to their advances. As I said in my POD article, this is a good thing if it removes power from the grim chain bookshops and hands it to the content providers - the publishers and authors. But I'm queasy about books on phones. This seems to devalue the word itself.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:27 am