An End

Seth Godin on the failure and the hope of books:

Seth Godin

None of these changes, by themselves, are enough to kill a venerable information delivery and cultural touchstone like the book. But all of them together? I’m writing this on a train filled with educated, upper income suburban commuters of all genders and ethnicities (book buyers, until recently). I can see 40 people at a glance, and 34 are using electronic devices, two are asleep and exactly one person is reading a traditional book.

Yes, we’re entering a new golden age for books, one with more books and ebooks being written and read today than ever before. No, books won’t be completely eliminated, just as vinyl records are still around (a new vinyl store is opening in my little town). But please don’t hold your breath for any element of the treasured ecosystem to return in force.

Is it traitorous to my tribe to write these words? I’m not arguing that we should push the ecosystem out the door, but I am encouraging us to not spend too much time trying to save it. First, it’s a losing battle, but more important, we have bigger opportunities right in front of us.

Diversify, Korrektiv, diversify!


  1. Well, it’s not like they couldn’t be reading e-versions of our fine publications on their electronic devices.

    Le Sigh.

  2. Jonathan Potter says
  3. Matthew Lickona says

    I should note that I am just as lousy a reader as anybody else. There is now an active resistance in my soul toward picking up a physical book and reading it. But I did have a Walker Percy re-entry a few days back. A neighbor had put a bunch of stuff on the curb, free for the taking. I rummaged through a box, found a paperback copy of Howard Jacobsen’s No More Mr. Nice Guy. Now granted, nasty English sex comedies written by Jews are a great favorite of mine, genre-wise, but even so – it was wonderful to feel the old enthusiasm for planting myself and turning pages.

  4. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Mr Potter, if you’re at liberty to speak on this: Is the shrinking of the paper-based ‘ecosystem’ Mr Godin describes having an effect at your own library? Or the growth of an electronic-based ‘ecosystem’? Are such ‘ecosystem’ changes something you think you’re in a position to predict and plan for in any detailed way? Or is that still premature?

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