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Digital revolution is not the death-knell for traditional publishing

Traditional books are so entrenched in our culture that the advent of e-readers and digital books does not represent a “doomsday scenario” for publishers, according to Doubleday Canada’s Lynn Henry, who is quoted in a CBC article about the future of reading. Speaking in Montreal, where she was attending the recent Blue Metropolis literary festival, Henry sounded a positive note for publishers who may fear a paradigm shift:

“People are feeling quite hopeful about what can happen with digital books,” Henry said in an interview.

“It could possibly be even a renaissance for writers and publishers as opposed to a doomsday scenario.”

Henry’s comments were echoed by Andrew Piper (the McGill academic, not the author of The Killing Circle, who spells his name with a “y”), who suggested that e-readers will not eliminate books but will change our relationship with them. No longer will the page be the “primary interface” by which readers encounter ideas. Even the notion of how we process ideas is open to revision, according to Piper:

“When you begin to think of the world not in a linear sequence of cause and effect but as a series of associated non-hierarchical ideas ¦ there’s a value encoded in that,” says Piper.

“All ideas become equal. There’s no inherent structure to ideas.”

The notion that all ideas are equal (that Schopenhauer’s thought is equivalent to that of, say, Ann Coulter) gives Quillblog a feeling of extreme horripilation, as does Henry’s notion that “every single e-book automatically becomes postmodern just by virtue of it being digital.” Of course, given that writers were experimenting with recombinant literary forms well before the digital era, the “huge shift” that Henry identifies may not be all that huge, after all.

THIS POST CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT HAS BEEN UPDATED: The quotes in the final paragraph of this post were erroneously attributed to Andrew Piper. They should have been attributed to Lynn Henry. Quillblog regrets the error.