I am not thinking properly ....is all my 6 year old son could groggily tell me as he woke up from a nightmare. I was trying to settle him and find out what disturbed him to the point of tears. I was equally amused by his reasoning. My wife was not pleased that I marveled more at his ability to reconcile his waking reality versus the bad dream that woke him from a sound sleep instead of finding out what was bothering him.
I wonder if publishing is in the same boat as my son, trying to reconcile reality vs. a bad dream as technology is shifting publishing's future and no one knows what it will look like. I will be the first to admit, I am much closer to being a professional carny than a publishing professional. Having devalued my opinion, I can at least offer it from the fact I have a front row seat of how this is playing out. What inspired me to ponder this was the Motoko Rich article that mostly laments e-books will erode the importance of book covers and the iconic role they have in the identity of a book, particularly the resonance a jacket cover has or the motivation to buy a book based on the jacket cover.
I get it. I am still moved at the sight of an image that can instantly bring me back to the rich experience that book gave me. Sitting at my desk - looking at the paper back cover of On the Road with Jack Kerouac & Neal Cassady standing in as Sal Paradise & Dean Moriarty put me in the mood to listen to Charlie Parker as I type away.
The difference between sentimentally hanging onto the obsolete and what the future holds is the fact that in 3 mouse clicks - I am listening to Charlie Parker right now on iTunes without missing a beat (no pun intended). The future will come with or without us. Jacket covers will continue to iconically be linked to books. I will hazard that it will the great books that have jacket covers that will stand the chance to endure.
I can go on - reach for a clumsy anology about lost joy of album covers vs. the sterile iPod. What I see is publishing struggling to maintain existing business models that will be challenged with each new innovation. We have not reached the tipping point or seen a game changer yet - but it is coming. I hope that publishers are as adept as my son and can reconcile what is reality and what is the bad dream they can let go of.
In E-Book Era, You Can’t Even Judge a Cover - NYT article by MOTOKO RICH