Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The "book" is either dying or flourishing!

Australian publishers say the book is not dead, it is being redefined by new technology, article.
So while the printed page may be less popular than in previous times, publishers are confident that reading will remain a mainstream pleasure - so long as readers keep adapting their definition of the word 'book'.

And thereby hangs a tale.
If a book is by definition on paper, then the Book is in trouble. Paperbook stores are closing in droves. But if it includes ebooks, then we may be on the verge of the Golden Age for books.

I have been chastised by helpful and enthusiastic readers that an ebook is not a book, because a book is a bound bundle of paper sheets.
And indeed from the dictionary it seems this is so.

But what's a book lover to do? My feelings tell me that Two Cities is a book, no matter if I read it in a "book" or on my Kindle, or iPad, or my phone.
A writer says he is writing a "book", and he is not talking about the bound paper, he is talking about the conceptual content.
And people all over the world is talking about books they have read, even though many of those books may never have seen bound paper.

So I think at some point, like has happened with the majority of words, the dictionaries will have to include this new definition of "book".
How you define it precisely is tricky, and for more orderly heads than mine.


ttl said...

... dictionaries will have to include this new definition of "book".

So, how would you differentiate a computer file that is a book, and a computer file that is not a book?

Also, doesn't this mess up the Xerox/Apple symbolism of files & folders, in that we would then have folders containing books? That rarely happens in real life.

The internet is full of fiction released as text files, even before the advent of the web. Are all those now to be called "books"?

Many web pages are book length. Are those now also books? After all, it is HTML just like ePub.

And from now on, when talking about the traditional medium known as book, should we refer to it as an "atom book" to differentiate from books that don't have a fixed material existence?

Just asking ...

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

See, I knew you would do this, that is why I said it's for sharper minds than me.
(How would you do it?)

I just know there must be some kind of definition, because I have not yet had trouble knowing if I was dealing with a book or not.

Marc said...

When I was a wee lad my grandmother used to sit me on her lap and read aloud to me. If she read aloud to me from a bound paper book or from an ebook today, how would I know the difference between the two sources?

I apply the grandmother-reading-aloud test and insist that printed-on-paper books and e-books are both books, as are audio books.

The dictionary has not yet caught up with the rest of us. :-)

ttl said...

(How would you do it?)

That makes no difference whatsoever.

People call the Web "Internet", the Internet "cloud", websites "blogs", and electronic bulletin boards "networks". I will not be surprised if they now start calling the computer file a "book".

Steve said...

I'm with you, Eolake. Peanut butter is peanut butter whether it is in a jar, on my toast, or mixed with chocolate.

Beowulf, the Iliad, the Canterbury Tales, and Plutarch's Lives all came in different kinds of jars from what we would expect today, but they all mix well with chocolate.

ttl said...

Peanut butter is peanut butter whether it is in a jar, on my toast, or mixed with chocolate.

But if you take peanut butter from a jar and smear it on your toast, do you then call that smeared peanut butter a "jar"? For that is analogous to what Eolake is suggesting here.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

But new things and concepts sometimes get new words, but often they take on the name of something pre-existing they are associated with. If you are in the habit of looking at etymology in dictionaries, something I've done a lot, you'll note that a word almost *never* means the same thing as it did 500 years ago, and then it meant something different from 1000 years ago.

Sure, it's sloppy, but it seems to be the only way a language evolves when millions of unclear minds are involved.

Just to me personally, I don't have any problem with an ebook being a "book", while I *do* have a problem with people misusing "literally" or calling orange soda "juice".

ttl said...

Sure, but don't forget that the book is the medium, i.e. the container.

The content is either a novel, short story, diary, dictionary, technical specification, travel guide etc. depending on the literary genre.

It is perfectly ok to say you have stored a novel on your computer hard disk. But saying that you have a book there somewhere inside your computer does sound a little suspicious. Perhaps the Mac Pro chassis can fit one, but an iPad? No way.

When you start calling a computer file a book, you are just calling one medium with the name of another, just as if you all of a sudden started referring to TV as "radio".