Fortunately, doing a search of blogs using the keywords "Steve Jobs reading books" brought up several thousand reactions. Until I did that search though, I thought that I was the only publishing person to feel angry. Now that I know I'm not alone, I feel much better. But where are my book publishing friends on this issue? Are we just going to stand by and take this crap?
Is the quiet out there in the book publishing community the result of people fearing that Steve Jobs is right about so many things that he must be right about this? Or, is it that most book people actually agree with him? I would have expected a reaction similar to that about the weapons of mass destruction that never were, but instead there was relative silence. Did his comments ring so true as to strike a sense of futility about the books future into the hearts of all who work to bring them to life?
I think that there is a much more worthwhile discussion to be had about what the word ‘book’ means in the digital age, but to write the book off as an obsolete form is about as arrogant as a person can get.
I am biased about this subject, hence my anger. But, what has surprised me so much about this situation is not Steve Job’s arrogant ideas, but our acquiescence to them. Isn’t it possible that even a superstar ‘prognosticator of hip’ can strikeout once in a while? It feels like we as an industry seem to just want to roll over and accept our obsolescence. What a bunch of wimps!
The book industry needs to change – to reinvent. Change is scary, change hurts. We need to stop worrying about creating so many titles and start worrying about how to make books relevant for a generation where kids talk on the phone, IM, connect on MySpace, listen to music, and do their homework all at the exact same moment.
To transform our industry and keep it vibrant and alive, we need to understand the very core of what makes a book (especially one of fiction) so special. Then we can take on the task of how to adapt that to technology’s new world order.
Here is a list of 10 things (in no particular order) that make books – for me - stand out as not only relevant, but necessary to society:
- Books invite us in.
- Books offer our imaginations a place to roam.
- Books do not judge the reader
- Books that are published are subject to editing and severe scrutiny before they are released.
- Books provide a safe haven for the reader.
- Books inform and educate us.
- Books allow us to project ourselves into the action, or stand by and watch from the sidelines.
- Books show us situations from a point of view that we might not have considered before and allow us to debate with ourselves.
- Books prepare us for real world situations.
- Books help shape our personal philosophies about life.
Perhaps a few of you who read this might offer up your own lists as comments to this post. If 10 people offered up 10 important traits of a book, we’d have 100. Then in the next week or so, we can start to explore how those traits can be matched to the superfast paced, multi-faceted, technology dependent, world that is here now, and will only become more complex in the future.
Perhaps, if we work together, we can regain a hold of our industry’s destiny and continue to educate, entertain, expand, and enlighten the minds of our society.