A Book’s Content, Not Its Format, Is What Counts

Someday we’ll just refer to books as books. Not paperback books. Not audio books. Not e-books. Not self-publishedbooks.

The boundaries between the formats are coming down, though there remains a bit of hesitation. In today’s New York Times, there was an article about a new e-book whose authors assert that the advance of technology will continue to eat away at jobs by actual, live people. This is an old story, of course, and one that’s been argued since the dawn of the Industrial Age. What was new was that the Times gave the authors and their topic – and their book – the benefit of an article.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Times, and many other print newspapers, ignored certain books formats. Paperback originals never, or very rarely, received critical attention. They were considered too lower-class among the social hierarchies of old-thinking media. (This despite more people reading paperbacks than higher-priced hardcovers.)

The same holds true of electronic books, which are an increasing option for many authors – budding or established. It was only in the last year that the Times, for one, began listing e-book bestsellers, as part of its revamped (and quite confusing) bestseller lists.

E-books are a newish format, but with more people choosing them – for the ease with which they can be printed (almost immediately compared to months for a traditional book) and even updated – it makes sense to consider e-books the equal of “regular” ones.

The authors of the book, Race Against the Machine, are specialists in digital culture. Erik Brynjolfsson, is director and Andrew P. McAfee, associate director and principal research scientist of the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business.  By choosing to publish an e-book, of course, they are eschewing some of the human element in the book business: the sales staff at the store and the distribution system that gets the books to the store.

Still, that they were given an article in a major newspaper shows the growing importance of, and respect given to, e-books. For anyone who’s considering making and marketing a book online, or creating an e-book, or self-publishing, then this is good news. However, one would hope that going forward, a book such as Race Against the Machine would simply be called a book, rather than an e-book, even if the term is there to alert readers to its availability online, and only online. Not that books will only be available online going forward (though who knows?), but that all books should be considered to be created equal, since it’s what’s in them, not what they’re made of, that really counts.

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4 Responses to “A Book’s Content, Not Its Format, Is What Counts”

  1. Aldous Irving Jimenez-Echegoye October 25, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Especially with the rise of technologies like kindle, i-Pad, etc. e-books will be the new trend for bookworms!

  2. Anamarie Seidel November 2, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    And just wait until people see e-books that are interactive with videos and links to websites for further info. Reading will be even more interesting!

    • Nine Andres November 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      That would be an exciting run but I’m fearful for the brick and mortar shops though. 

      • Anamarie Seidel November 8, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

        But the brick and mortar bookstores are already suffering. It will be interesting to see what happens with them, because there will always be people who want to leaf through real pages. Bookstores will have to start thinking out of the box to market to us.

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