Creating Confusion

We are all confused.

The way I can tell is by the words people are making up to describe the current state of publishing.

Christine Onorati, owner of Brooklyn bookstore WORD said at the BEA’s independent booksellers panel “one of the hardest things is we want people to know ereading is not poison to us…. We support you if you want to eread.” Ereading? I have problems with the word ebook, but I have enormous problems with a prefixed word that distinguishes the kind of reading I am doing. I don’t remember elistening when iTunes launched? Or ewatching when Netflix introduced streaming. In all of these cases, the activity doesn’t fundamentally change based on the mechanism you use; the product is what changes. We read digital books, but that might not be descriptive enough either.

A.V. Club published an article last week titled “Rise of the super-books: Is interactivity the future of reading?” Super-book? Really? What’s interesting here is they didn’t use the term in the article itself and instead referred to the products they reviewed as interactive book apps. An editor must have wanted some extra hype with a the catchy headline.

This combination of word, image, sound, and motion lacks a descriptor in modern language and we are left to bucket everything into the poorly termed ebook category. Saying the animated Alice in Wonderland on the iPad to the illustrated edition on the Nook are both ebooks does a disservice to both.

We are living through a time of incredible disruption in book publishing, and we would all help ourselves if we talked about how we should talk about the future of our industry.

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