It was difficult to sum up the experience in our short audio wrap up, but amongst all the audience instructions, goodie bags (mine had a Collins New Zealand dictionary, a DVD and a TVNZ7 notebook) and photo opportunities The Good Word Debate was an interesting one : Off the shelf and into the hard drive: the book is dead.
Arguments for the book being dead – put by Finlay Macdonald, Gordon McLauchlan and Jennifer Ward Lealand:
- the top-heavy, wasteful economy of scale of publishing is dying, contributing to the literary landfill
- It’s environmentally friendlier to use digital versions
- Changing the publishing industry will bring readers and writers closer together
- Being cheaper to produce, authors will earn more
- More access to back-lists
- The book is a sacred object – devotees will barricade themselves in libraries and read Proust until the vandals arrive.
Arguments against, argued by Emily Perkins, Bill Hastings and Steve Braunias stacked up like this:
- New media doesn’t replace old media
- Books warm a room – if they’re not there, will curious visitors go through your fridge instead?
- E-book devices are harder to hide under the bed – so long as people need tittilation there will be books
- Naysayers were proving the mind is dead, not the book
- That e-book is still fundamental to book
- Books help with social intercourse, and get people together
On the night, the audience went with the negative team, so the book is not dead. For my money, the logic and the strongest arguments were with the affirmative. The format will eventually change, diversify, morph. So here’s the water-cooler topic for today – is the book dead – or is it just terminally ill?