Closing The Book

The world of letters is being rocked by new technology.  The rapid rise of the e-reader could be the biggest change in books since Gutenberg invented movable type.  Readers, writers, booksellers, and publishers are all grappling with its implications and asking a fundamental question: is a book really a book when it exists only as a digital file? CBC producer Sean Prpick goes between the covers of the question.

Listen to Closing The Book

Reading an e-book on an Apple iPad. Photo by FHKE.

Closing The Book
examines why Kobos, iPads, Kindles and dozens of other electronic devices are flying off the shelves and into the hands of increasingly enthusiastic consumers. At same time, millions of e-titles are being downloaded, while those who supply books scramble to adjust to the new reality.  One public librarian in Saskatchewan reports that demand for e-books among his patrons rose more than 450 percent in 2010.

Closing The Book
presents a wide variety of views from this new frontier of literary culture, including: an industry consultant who says paper books could be outnumbered by digital books in as little as 10 to 15 years; a pioneering e-book seller; a visionary publisher who laid down the outlines of and who is breaking new ground in the digital printing of books on demand;  and a popular Canadian author who says e-books meet a genuine need and deserve to replace most  paper titles.

Then there are the skeptics, like the bibliophile who hopes paper books are never superseded by the electronic kind; the historian of the book who says slates and tablets cannot replace the sensuous pleasure of reading ink on paper; and a Governor General's Award-winning writer who fears e-reading will accelerate the dumbing-down of books.

Closing The Book, produced for Ideas by Sean Prpick and Dave Redel.

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