The Book Is Dead, Long Live the Book

I think Kevin Kelly, technology seer and Wired magazine founder, is brilliant, even if now and again his observations sound like something your crazy uncle might say after a little too much whiskey (that’s a compliment, Uncle Jack!). Today he’s expounding on the difference between books of yore and reading in the future:

The primary shift is one of thinking of the book as a process rather than artifact. We are moving from the culture of the book to the culture of booking. Our focus is no longer on the book, the noun, but on booking, the verb — on that continuous process of thinking, writing, editing, writing, sharing, editing, screening, writing, screening, sharing, thinking, writing — and so on that incidentally throws off books. Books, even ebooks, are by-products of the booking process. The distinct processes of making a book in the past, whether it was writing, editing, design, printing, bookselling, marketing, etc., are now blurred into a single undifferentiated process called booking.

Having spent a few months now “booking,” I can say the experience has been a little less exhilarating than Kelly makes it sound. Granted, I’m not necessarily working on something with blockbuster appeal, à la Game of Thrones, but it’s proven much harder to do that whole sharing, back-and-forth thing than I expected.

It may be that stand-alone efforts like mine don’t work as well as the social literature platforms popping up online, like Red Lemonade or Unbound. Or it may be that people prefer reading excerpts from already finished works, like this forthcoming book from sci-fi master Charles Stross. Regardless, I’ll take cold comfort in the fact that I’m part of publishing’s advanced guard, and keep on keepin’ on.


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