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Don't read the last rites for hardbacks just yet  

On the readers' highway through the world of books, next to stunning vistas of the imagination, you also pass the burnt-out wrecks of shiny new predictions. For instance: no one but a blockhead publishes sci-fi. Novels are dead; film is the future. Ink is for antiquarians; the paperless society has arrived. Etc. This new century has seen a boom in prototypes for a brave new world.

The decade since the millennium has sponsored a spike in anxieties about a viable literary culture. This much we know: the book business is being redefined by digital technology as the music business before it, though in a significantly different way.

If there has been one prediction, on which there's been virtual unanimity, it is that the hardback is toast, and bound books deader than a box of doornails. The smart response to any suggestion that the hardback harks back to a golden age will be variations on Monty Python's dead parrot sketch ("It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It is an ex-parrot"). In short, conventional wisdom has declared the hardback an ex-book.

This column, perversely, has always maintained the opposite. Hardbacks, as I have written on many occasions, have a good future. Technological change is discontinuous. The typewriter did not eliminate the pen, nor the motorcar the horse. In the same way, hardback publishing, inheriting centuries of literary wisdom, will not be eliminated and might even flourish. There are signs that this prediction is coming to pass.

 

 

Source: The Guardian

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/22/hardbacks-sales-paperbacks-robert-mccrum

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