Disclosure: I am a bibliophile. No, make that book addict. My house is filled with overflowing bookcases. Books are my friends. I never leave home without one.
Nontheless, I am beginning to wonder if the nonfiction book isn't becoming an anachronism. The world flows; books are still.
A couple of weeks ago, I completed writing a 100-page document on the metrics of corporate learning. It's a file. I labeled it an "eBook." My promotional copy says, "I pulled together my thoughts on measuring results, added some how-to material, stole items from past white papers, listed the best sources I know, and packed 30,000 witty words into an eBook, named Metrics."
At least one in five buyers sends me a snail mail address so I can send them the book. How can I get the point across? I sense we need a new term for "living book." I never intend to print this book. Several reasons why:
Interested in how to measure the results of corporate learning? Buy Metrics. Since I bear no printing and shipping costs, I can sell it for $25.
In 1970, Uta and I lived in a high-rise apartment building in Wiesbaden, across the Rhine from Mainz. Naturally, we toured the Gutenberg print shop and museum.
The concepts of moveable type and the printing press bring automation to mind. Seeing a Gutenberg Bible up close brings you back to the reality that medieval times were manual. Printing was but an intermediate step in preparing a bible. Next came the artwork. Color was applied to "illuminations" by hand. Books were revered as art objects. Furthermore, you weren't about to stuff one of these tomes into your pocket to read on the plane. (Paperbacks were not invented until four decades later.)
Gutenberg Bible, print run of 183 copies, 1452-55
Contrast this with the Internet Archive Bookmobile. The bookmobile is "a mobile digital library capable of downloading public domain books from the Internet via satellite and printing them anytime, anywhere, for anyone." These bookmobiles are traversing India and parts of Africa. They can download, print, and package any of 25,000 titles for "a buck a book."
Brewster and his son on tour with the bookmobile.
For most of us, book conjures up an image of a physical thing. The dictionary's first definition reads
The Columbia Encyclopedia notes that the physical aspects needn't be books' defining characteristic:
What should we call a book o' bits?
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