Bellagio Publishing Network  

BPN Newsletter Issue No 20, Autumn 1997 


Literature's Love Bytes:

The digital age is no threat to the power of the book

Reprinted, with permission, from the Guardian, 23 April 1997

The book is the most successful artefact ever invented. After 5000 years it holds its own against all the johnny-come-lately competition. Compared to the digital revolution the book might seem to have reached a state of technological exhaustion. A book is a book is a book. But only because it perfectly fulfils its function. Critics started to write it off with the arrival of films but the book saw off the competition as it did with television and the video. Even after the traumas of resale price maintenance and merger-mania among publishers, books are still holding their own. Last year UK home sales were up 3.8 per cent by value or 7.3 per cent including exports.

So publishers need not feel unduly defensive about today's launch of World Book Day as a celebration of the written word. It coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare who, expressing his thoughts through Prospero, valued books above his dukedom. Peter Greenaway made a film about Prospero's books together with a video and a book about the screenplay in testimony to the symbiosis of literature with other media.

Neither the Internet nor CD-ROMs will ever displace books not least because a CD-ROM doesn't have a life much beyond ten years while books last for centuries. On-line novel reading is a form of self-inflicted punishment. The book and the byte are destined to be friends whether they like it or not. [end] [BPN, no 20, 1997, p.19]

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