Tag Archives: Future of books

Out of Print — What’s happening to books?

ImageWe’re liv­ing through a slow-motion earth­quake in the world of books. The mas­sive shift from print­ed books to e-books and oth­er dig­i­tal for­mats may be as momen­tous as the arrival of the print­ing press five hun­dred years ago. This is one of those big changes that, even though it’s affect­ing our lives pro­found­ly, is hard to talk about—maybe in part because it’s so new. As Lev Gross­man said in a 2011 arti­cle, “if any­thing we may be low­balling the weird­ness of it all.”

A new doc­u­men­tary by Vivi­enne Roumani, Out of Print, aims to get us talk­ing about this phe­nom­e­non. How many of us still read print­ed books, or any long-form books at all? What is the effect of the e-book rev­o­lu­tion, and the broad­er, inter­net-induced change in our read­ing habits: on pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies, on writ­ers, on libraries? What about chil­dren and teenagers com­ing to read­ing now—how will it affect how they learn, even how they think?

The film, nar­rat­ed by Meryl Streep, is on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit, and will be shown this Sat­ur­day, July 20, in New Hope as part of the New Hope Film Fes­ti­val. Roumani gets a kind of vir­tu­al con­ver­sa­tion start­ed through inter­views with an impres­sive array of experts. In one cor­ner, there’s a sur­pris­ing­ly elo­quent Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon—the big goril­la of both e-book and print book sales—who speaks with pas­sion about the book as an ele­gant object, and about how read­ing a nov­el can trans­port you to an alter­nate world. In the oth­er cor­ner, there’s Scott Tur­ow, who as pres­i­dent of the Authors Guild acts as a kind of pit bull for writ­ers, argu­ing for their right to earn mon­ey from their work against ini­tia­tives like Google’s con­tro­ver­sial plan to dig­i­tize thou­sands of books.

And then there’s the late, great Ray Brad­bury, speak­ing about his dis­cov­ery of read­ing at his local library in Waukegan. In the base­ment of that library, he banged out the first draft of Fahren­heit 451, the book that pre­scient­ly imag­ined a future where most peo­ple live with immer­sive enter­tain­ment screens, and where books are in dan­ger of dis­ap­pear­ing in a dif­fer­ent way. Is our new world as strange as that, or stranger? This ele­gant and thought­ful film opens a door on that ques­tion too.

Out of Print will be shown Sat­ur­day, July 20, 7 p.m. at the New Hope Arts Cen­ter, 2 Stock­ton Ave. @ Bridge Street, New Hope, PA 18938, as part of the New Hope Film Fes­ti­val