One For The Books

Friday, November 23, 2007


This week, On the Media is dedicating the entire show to one of our favorite topics – books. From Oprah's Book Club to the Google Library Project, the way we buy, search, read and even discuss books is changing. And so we begin with a look at some of the forces now tugging at the industry.

Comments [8]

Steve Yasinsky from Los Angeles

I'm a big fan of the show (sad that most of my friends would rather listen to fm music than npr). But I completely agree that the future of books is going to be very different - with e-books and self-publishing, both consumption of the books as well as authoring/publishing of books is going to change dramatically. All of my friends hang out on Facebook and social applications like iRead are already indications of these trends. I like their recommendation service which really has the potential to connect the long tail of authors to their niche audiences. Heck, even I might be able to write a book one day *and* have a few people outside of my family read it :)

Dec. 12 2007 08:46 PM
Anne Frid de Vries from Israel

Thanks to a review in Open Culture (, I have found this episode (of the podcast). Great stuff. Immediately wrote about it in my blog, which is a podcast review blog.

Nov. 27 2007 02:35 AM
Kathleen from New York NY

Why no mention of audiobooks? That's how I get a lot of my "reading" done -- and I know I'm not alone. Just for the record, I've read War and Peace three times -- once in print and twice on tape. There is no better salve for the petty annoyances of modern life -- commuting to work, waiting on line, ironing, whatever -- than listening to a good doorstop.

Nov. 26 2007 06:40 PM
Syven from

I see no difference between browsing books via Google and browsing books in a public library, the key difference is that touch and feel are not simply the aesthetic connection to books, browsing and flicking is easier with a hand-held book and it is an amazing what the human eye picks up as pages pass by.

On the other scale, a book which resonates deeply with me is one that I am going to physically purchase, for a great book is holding the contents of a very smart human brain.

Whether it is aggregrator or intermediate, the more channels or means there are for me to expand my universe of cerebral interest, the greater the opportunity that book sellers have to serve that interest. Where I draw the line is to avoid being sold a work like some kind of informercial exercise equipment or when I am party to groupthink. Otherwise, the world has never looked better for information seekers and how can this choice be overwhelming if the channels are understood and are intelligently accessible?


Nov. 26 2007 03:52 PM
Jason from Minneapolis, MN

I work in a University Library and even here I see the things covered in this show every day. Students don't use books for research anymore, I am continually forced to say that no, Google and Wikipedia are NOT proper sources for academic work.

If I may be so presumptuous to recommend further reading on this subject (from ages 15 or so on up), start with Neil Postman. "Amusing Ourselves to Death" and "Technopoly" are my favorites!

Again, great show today!

Nov. 25 2007 08:19 PM
Pam Spooner from Austin, Texas

In less that ONE MINUTE by searching the 3 word title, I found literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of copies of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy available for sale for an extremely affordable $8.97 to hundreds of dollars for a rare edition---ALL by using --You managed to miss out on educating your public by introducing this, or other, search engines that search the catalogs of booksellers (yes, Amazon included...). I wish you had thought through the points of your story better and tied up those multiple loose ends and dangling fallacies, like what about all those books that ARE NOT digitized (a cost --therefore, a choice) or all those millions of people who cannot afford a digital book reader or the 'freedom issues' like downloading books can be monitored by the government or the content of electronic books can be changed/censored or certain books can be purposely not digitized due to their 'objectionable' content...and ....and ....and.....
Conflict is what journalism is all about but hey, you're NPR, education is a part of your mandate too, isn't it?

Nov. 25 2007 10:58 AM
Darrell Bibby from Salem, MA

Simply a great show! I could hardly wait until it was over to email my daughter (junior @ Columbia) and have her listen to the podcast. I enjoyed the segment about the Kindle. If it starts a trend, I believe it's greatest contribution will be the amount of trees saved. Also, the newspaper publishers might get together and develop one just for newspapers. Bill Powers did raise a good point about the way our brain and books function together, but habits can be broken. And finally, the twelve word novel entries were great.

Nov. 25 2007 07:25 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

So much of this program kept putting me in mind of Ray Bradbury’s 'Fahrenheit 451'. What need of his Fireman, if we raise a population in this country with neither the skills nor the desire to read?

In a country where, according to news reports around the time of the 2004 Presidential election, fully 60% of the people deny believing in evolution, encouraging reading would seem essential to the survival of democracy.

Some of the first civic investments even Colonial Americans seem to have made, and a subject ignored by your program, were private membership and public libraries. This did little for the publishing industry in terms of sales but, as some of your guests pointed out about other free access to books; it was a wonderful form of promotion of the book.

The publishing industry, dominated now apparently by “foreign conglomerates”, still owes it to itself to invest in a primary and secondary education system in this country that creatively encourages the act of book reading in whichever of the multitude of forms discussed here. Otherwise, it will face a tide of illiterates uninterested in their wares, other than perhaps Gutenberg’s original product line.

Nov. 25 2007 02:36 AM

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