Last night’s discussion at the Commonwealth Club was boisterous and entertaining. The topic was “The Future of the Book: Dead or Alive?” While the panel was firmly in the camp of “Books: Alive”, it was interesting to see how technology is helping keep books relevant; Brewster Kahle passed around one of the 600 first $100 laptops that will put the world’s catalog of books in the hands of 3rd world children. It’s a very basic machine, thin & light, with a screen that pivots & turns so that you can use the laptop as a tablet PC or as a regular laptop. There was some banter around “The Long Tail” (only economically beneficial if you own the entire catalog of the long tail…)
Highlights from the session:
Larson: books are a beautiful form that is a physical pleasure to read. To be a viable medium, they must be useable in bed, bath, beach & bus. For a book to be considered a bestseller, it’s all about volume and velocity of sales.
Gittins: Tyranny of retail distribution.. The opportunity is to provide tools for people to easily create books, tools to enable people to find what they are looking for. Blurb has $14M raised by people who care about the future of the book…
Kahle: Internet Archive is making the dream of the Library of Alexandria a reality; gathering all the books of the world in digital format. Library of Congress has 26 million books; if each book is 1MB of data, that’s 26 Terabytes of data, or $60k to buy the computers to run and store all the books of the LOC. Print on demand is virtually free, so the Archive can give away books.
Gunn: Everyone has at least one book in them. The book tour is a thing of the past– one stop at a major podcast can get you wider coverage than a book tour. What doesn’t work: authors hating the title or cover of their book and losing the energy to promote it; authors in it just to make money. Books are human, as long as we’re alive, they’re alive. “Begin!”
EILEEN GITTINS, CEO, Blurb
BREWSTER KAHLE, Digital Librarian, Internet Archive
MICHAEL LARSEN, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency
MOIRA GUNN, Radio Host, NPR’s “Tech Nation” â Moderator