Souvenirs

Um artigo do Economist de amanhã (eis as vantagens da internet) sobre o futuro dos livros.

Books are not primarily artefacts, nor necessarily vehicles for ideas. Rather, as Mr Godin puts it, they are “souvenirs of the way we felt” when we read something. That is something that people are likely to go on buying.

(…) books that people would not traditionally read in their entirety, or that require frequent updating, are likely to migrate online and perhaps to cease being books at all. Telephone directories and dictionaries, and probably cookbooks and textbooks, will all fall into this category.

With non-fiction the situation is more nuanced. Many non-fiction books express an intellectual idea. Traditionally, the only way to deliver such an idea profitably involved binding it into a 300-page book, says Seth Godin, a blogger and author of eight books on marketing. “If you had a 50-page idea, you couldn’t make any money from it,” he says, so a lot of non-fiction books end up on shelves with 250 unread pages. Freedom from such rigidities may save a lot of authorial time.

Non-fiction books will also benefit from another change that comes with digitisation. Like web pages, digitised books can have incoming and outgoing hyperlinks. On books.google.com at the moment, links are only to entire books. But in future, says Google’s Mr Clancy, links will point to and from specific phrases or words inside books. Footnotes, citations and bibliographies are obvious points for live links.

This has several benefits. It will help scholarly research, since it makes primary sources much more accessible. And it will reduce the slog of academic book-worming—jotting down the location of a book, trudging through the library, pulling it off the shelf, queuing for the photocopier—to the negligible effort of clicking a mouse. (…)

What about all the genres of books that fill a different human need? (…) Most stories (…) will never find a better medium than the paper-bound novel. That is because readers immersed in a storyline want above all not to be interrupted, and all online media teem with distractions (even a hyperlink is an interruption). People do not read fiction in order to accomplish a specific task in a limited amount of time, as they read reference and schoolbooks. (…)

What about short stories and poems? Being short, they fit the new media, so some may do well online and need not be bound in paper. Commuters could receive their daily haiku or sonnet on their mobile phones while taking the bus to work. They might also use the new media to enjoy poetry in a more traditional way. “Storytelling started as oral history,” says Adam Smith, the boss of Google’s book project, so a partial reversion to that form, through podcasting, would be natural.

But even anthologies of short stories and poems, like longer novels, are unlikely to disappear. People want to be guided by others. They also want media suitable for unhurried reading in beds and bathtubs and on beaches. Above all, they want paper books for what digitisation is revealing them to be. Books are not primarily artefacts, nor necessarily vehicles for ideas. Rather, as Mr Godin puts it, they are “souvenirs of the way we felt” when we read something. That is something that people are likely to go on buying.

Sobre Ivan Nunes

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