Tablet Readers = the hardcover version of any book

by Matthew Cavnar on

With GalleyCat posting the Association of American Publisher’s net sales revenue figures on Friday showing eBook sales surpassing hardcover for the first time, we have continuing evidence that readers are rapidly shifting from paper to screens. 

Some readers decry the loss of the “book experience” but we’ve long been committed digital first readers—the reading experience as a minimally intermediated flow between written word and understanding brain gets closer to seamless with digital books.

The mobile phone and table interestingly are like Platonic books; the ideal form of a container that could theoretically hold all text information between its covers. A post on Lewism reminded me that books began as a way to connect scrolls of information together; tablet devices connect books and books together, and could, and probably will, ultimately connect all books together into one “supra” book. Even today, given unlimited time and budget on Amazon, BN, iBooks and others, you could compile a pretty complete archive of textual history.  

eBooks have surpassed hardcover sales (and by a whopping 282.3 million to 229.6 million in hardcover), but it seems less historic than inevetibale. And also natural. The computer overwhelmed the manual typewriter and transformed the newsroom; as well as the lives of writers. And aren’t eBooks, when wedded to mobile devices, ultimately superior in terms of function to their old incarnation? If we divorce the  book-as-structure from book as cherished individual object, the digital tablet, be it Nook, Kindle or iPad, is an evolutionary advancement of that structure. Devices aren’t killing books -- they're giving the phoenix of the book somewhere to live when it rises out of the vapor of digitized printed matter. 

As a society and as book creators, we still have issues with maintaining a fixed, source text for works that can’t be hacked or repurposed or ‘bettered’ (envision the bizarre universe where, say, Philip Roth would go George Lucas on his early works with any eye towards improvement) but the immense accessibility of digital, the way it’s made written culture so much more ubiquitous, means eBooks aren't simply surpassing hard cover, but that, perhaps, the concept of hardcover is being reborn as tablets, and individual books, the cultural matter itself, is becoming  suddenly and thankfully more prevalent. 

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