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Revenge of the Literate: How Books will Outlast TV

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With the book industry virtually moribund, isn't it odd that teen literature is taking off: these are the kids who are not supposed to even be able to read, except (possibly) from a computer screen. But maybe the familiarity with computers has increased literacy (although, forget about spelling!) For after all, you do generally need to read to get the most out of the Internet. Oh sure, you can play games and watch videos, but much of the information for whatever you're interested in will inevitably be presented in print form.

But whatever the cause, at any Barnes and Noble in town you'll see cliques of teenagers browsing the young adult section, discussing the latest releases. Though I was a reader as a teen, it was always a solitary pursuit. The idea of getting a group of my friends together to hang out in the bookstore would have struck me as wildly improbable, to say the least. Beginning in the sixties and continuing until just recently, the trend has been toward decreased literacy, probably due to the ascendancy of the TV. But now the dominance of TV is being challenged by the Internet.

TV has responded by--surprise, surprise--becoming even more silly and vacuous, appealing to an even lower "common denominator" than anyone would have ever thought possible.
Isn't it at least conceivable that the proliferation of ridiculous "reality" shows that immediately alienate any thinking adult might also be alienating intelligent teenagers.

These more discerning teens will grow up--in fact they already are growing up, even as we speak. It won't be long before they tire of Stephenie Meyers-style vampire novels and look for something a bit more challenging. The book industry needs to be prepared with intelligent, entertaining books on mature subjects.

The book industry has lately seen the internet as a threat, but it may turn out to be a boon. TV was the real, longstanding threat, and now, inevitably, TVs are going to be phased out. You can already get plenty of TV shows and movies on the Internet. TV sacrificed the only unique thing it had going for it when, in a short-sighted money-grab, it switched to digital. At that point a lot of people around the country simply stopped watching, many no doubt realizing that the switch simply presaged the eventual conversion to computers. So how much longer before we trash our digital TVs? Two years? Five? Maybe somebody can sell us another conversion box in the meantime.

Even if Kindle and various devices take over a part of the book market (exposing the book industry to the same problem of piracy that plagues the music and movie industries), they have yet to duplicate the intangible "thingness", the quidity, of a book, that which makes it a unique experience. A new generation of readers seems to have discovered this; I don't see any groups of teenagers hanging out by the Nook counter.

Thus I find it an irony of the highest order that low-tech paper-and-ink books are going to be around much longer than those futuristic cathode cannons. That will the truly be the revenge of the literate, and though I must say it's been a long time coming, it will be all the sweeter for that.