‘Out of Print’ Explores “Sad Future of Reading and eBooks”
Okay, the doom-and-gloomers have been predicting the death of physical books ever since the first book was read on anything besides paper — or at least promising the end of life as we know it. A new documentary called Out of Print, which debuted last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, investigates the state of reading and the ‘literary landscape’ and their conclusions are on the depressing end of the scale.
Through statistics culled from literary surveys and interviews with people from all aspects of the book world— historians, librarians, students and teachers, publishers, and just about anyone else who is connected to the literary world— the film shows a field in the midst of significant and rapid change, both positive and negative.
The advent of eBooks has made reading more efficient and affordable for many and has increased access to and acceptance of self-publishing. But on the other hand, Out of Print portrays young people who are unable or unwilling to read long sections of text, and can’t retain or synthesize the snippets of information they skim. “A book is something I’m being forced to read, so I spend my time thinking about how I’d rather be sleeping,” says one teenage boy in the film.
I laughed first, then was appalled by one researcher who called the current generation “…’digital doofuses,’ who retain very little of the information they glean from skimming.” How depressing is that? Adults will be fine, apparently, as we’ll continue reading and supporting the people who live off of our reading (well, maybe) but what about our descendants?
But the troubling question Out of Print poses is what sort of minds will the next generation have, if they are able to “read” in the traditional sense at all?
And as technology changes, what happens to books that are in outmoded technologies? Paper books don’t have to be converted or upgraded to a new format. Is this the end of books? Probably not, but are we raising future generations who may never know what it means to ‘enjoy’ a book?
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