Whither Reading in a Digital Media World?

Every new communications technology of the last 120 years has been met with fear by desperate defenders of the print-on-paper paradigm for literature, news, and information. In the 1890s, movies and the phonograph were going to replace our beloved books and newspapers; in the 1920s radio reared its ugly head, and who can forget the tirades against television from the 1950s to the present day. Then, in the 1990s, beginning with Sven Birketts' The Gutenberg Elegies, we were warned that computers would soon destroy the book. More recently, the computer has morphed into a whole army of digital devices that appear to threaten the print-on-paper paradigm.

What is to be done?

It has been said that the demise of railroads in America was the result of railroad companies failing to  recognize that they were in the transportation business, not the rail business. As authors and publishers, we need to understand that we are in the business of communication not the business of creating and selling print-on-paper.

So bring on your e-Readers and your smartphones, your 3-D televisions, and your digital tablets. We'll be ready because while reading and writing and publishing will take different forms than they do now (just as they did when the manuscripts of Medieval monks gave way to the movable type of Gutenberg and, more recently, when "hot-metal" typesetting machines were scrapped in favor of electronic compositors), the novel will endure as will the short story and the news account and instructional texts and... yes, even celebrity gossip...because people will always read and others will write and others publish. Tweet that, why don't you?

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