Escaping the Cave
Rather more often than I would have expected when I started doing this, I find the software testing blogs I read cross-pollinating my observations about writing in general and the industry. I ran across one of them today, talking about Plato’s Cave and how the allegory applies to software teams in the industry, particularly the tendency of those who have been in the “cave” for a long time to fight against any suggestion that there might be another way.
Well, gosh. That sounds awfully like some publishers we all know, the ones who insist that ebooks are a passing fad (one which has outlasted at least two generations of devices, possibly more), and that hardcopy print will be around forever.
To be fair, while hardcopy may not be around forever forever, some form of physical book is going to be around for a good long time. There’s not much that tops the pleasure of looking at really high-quality edition of something – one of my treasures is my commemorative edition of Lord of the Rings – but when it comes to popcorn reading or general stuff, the convenience of ebooks can’t be beaten.
Personally, I expect to see ebooks become the primary source of fiction in the next 10 years or so, and make inroads into general non-fiction. Coffee-table books will still happen, and children’s books with interesting texture (as well as books that can withstand the attentions of a teething child and books intended to be read to a child or read with a child), and of course the kind of non-fiction book that involves precisely laid-out tables is still having issues moving to digital.
My guess is that in the next 20 years or so, physical books will be back to being prestige items, purchased primarily for future heirloom value, or as keepsakes (I will note that my Pratchett collection will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands, and the bastard who tries to steal it from me had better hope he, she, or it is immortal, because those books mean that much to me). For actual reading, computers, phones, and tablets will be the thing. It’s already almost viable to read novels on a phone, and screen quality just keeps getting better.
Of course, that’s for those of us outside the cave. The poor cave denizens seem to be stuck on trying to steal each others’ ever-dwindling supply of
food… ahem, readers while loudly proclaiming that their world is all their is and anyone who says otherwise is a dirty liar, and possibly also a Nazi (although this accusation seems to be dying rather faster than the previous favorite, being a racist).
Honestly, I’d wonder about their sanity except that I know full well they haven’t any, having bartered it along with what passes for their souls for a hint of faux-prestige. See, the thing about artificial environments like this is that the people who thrive in them – at least that I’ve seen – are typically rather… mediocre at best. And, as always when the stakes are miniscule but involve a lot of egoboo, the infighting is vicious.
Those who have noticed the resemblance to teenage girls in catfights, yeah, exactly. See, while they’re backstabbing each other in their bid to be the supreme muckety-muck of the cave, the guards (those with real power) don’t have to worry too much about them escaping. Heck, they’ll fight to keep the other inmates trapped with them and claim it’s the best place ever.
Me, I’ll take my chances in the dangerous world outside the cave, no matter how scary it might be.