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Our Book Club review this time is Jason Merkoski‘s Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading.
Jason Merkoski is digital pioneer, technology evangelist and “renegade futurist”. He was an early innovator on Amazon’s Kindle team and helped to invent technology used in today’s ebooks. He’s also a book collector, book publisher, book writer, book reader and lover of all kinds of books – whether they’re on an ereader or in print.
Burning the Page is his vision of the future of books, reading and writing.
…what we have now is directionally indicative of a future that all book lovers should want to live in, the future of on-demand reading, of having any and every book that’s ever been published available to us no matter where we are.
I collect books and I love reading, and I requested this book to review from the publisher (via NetGalley.com) because I thought it could/would be fascinating – and it is.
I must admit though, I started reading with preconceptions and was fully prepared to disagree with the book’s content. I’m digging my heels in a little (actually, quite a lot) when it comes to the digital book and ereader – not that I think there’s anything wrong with them per se – I just don’t see them ever replacing print books – and I don’t want them to. My Kindle is invaluable for reading egalley copies of books for reviewing for the BOTB Book Club, and for downloading some excellent books when they are available free, but I still much prefer a ‘real’ book. Doesn’t everybody?
In Burning the Page, Jason Merkoski takes us on journey charting the origins of ebooks, how they came to be, and where they’re taking us on the road to Reading 2.0. He discusses the future of writing, the new face of publishing, the neurobiology of reading, language change, globalization, and technological obsolescence.
He meanders through the history/evolution of books and printing, from cuneiform tablets in central Turkey, to wood-block printing in 200 AD China, to Gutenberg’s Bible. The ancient libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum are there too, as are Plato, Socrates, and Faust, and Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs.
It’s a substantial book, covering a lot of ground and full of interesting historical references and detail…
Moveable type was discovered and used to print books in Korea seventy-five years before it was rediscovered by Johannes Gutenberg, the credited inventor of modern printing.
…and it has entertaining glimpses into the behind-the-scenes development of the Kindle, and what goes on behind closed doors and walls of security in the world of publishing, trade shows and book fairs.
Jason does make a convincing case for ebooks and the future of reading – he takes a balanced view, acknowledging the current limitations of ebooks but also pointing out their advantages over print books. Some of his ideas might seem a bit ‘out there’ and more science fiction than reality, but what he’s discussing is what he sees as the real future of ebooks and reading, and much of it is based on his experiences so far as an innovator.
I’m not speaking as a pie-in-the-sky futurist but as someone who sees technological inevitability.
As I was reading, I found myself strongly agreeing and disagreeing in turn with his predictions and thoughts. I found it particularly sad that he predicts that in the not too distant future, the market for print books will be flooded and no-one will need or want them. Apart from the few that are snapped up by serious book collectors, they will be worthless, no longer precious, and no longer seen as status symbols. He also says we can expect to see no traditional print books in the average household thirty years from now – I wondered if he was being deliberately provocative by writing this, or if he really does see this as the future of print books. If so, then I think that will be a great loss. On the other hand, I think the potential of ebooks to do things such as enable readers and authors to directly engage with each other is exciting. I just don’t want to see ebooks completely replace print books.
If you love books and love reading, or you’re a published or aspiring writer, Burning the Page is a must-read – it’s an intelligent, personal glimpse into the future of books and reading, but one based firmly on experience and expertise, mixed with a dash of imagination and inspiration. It’s a fascinating book and I highly recommend it.
I received an advance copy of Burning the Page from Sourcebooks in return for an honest review.
If you have any suggestions for books to review or authors to interview, please let us know.