Are E-Books Killing Books?; The Books That Shaped America

Today in books and publishing: The ongoing hand-wringing over e-books; the Library of Congress's great reading list; Apple anti-trust suit wrinkles; Alec Baldwin gets mad, gets books.

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Today in books and publishing: The ongoing hand-wringing over e-books; the Library of Congress's great reading list; Apple anti-trust suit wrinkles; Alec Baldwin gets mad, gets books.

E-books, e-books, e-books! If beings from a more progressed society came to Earth and were living among us, say, in 500 years or so, they'd probably look at this week or month, maybe the whole year of 2012, and say, Wow, those people would not stop talking about this thing they call "e-books." And why that name, so cutesy and belittling? Are they books, can we call them that at all, if they're on a tablet? Yes, they do have words strung together into sentences, into prose, with plots and characters and themes and all those other book-things, even if they don't exist in paper bound forms. E-books! They are everywhere, like little fast cars instead of horses and buggies, trumping sales of "actual" physical books, and so we have feelings about them, we do. For example, NPR's piece by Amanda Katz "Will Your Children Inherit Your E-Books?" So seemingly impermanent, might books just disappear altogether?, is the hinted upon concern. Are we heading to a bookless society? Related article we hope to read: Will Grandma Steal Your Kindle?

All this debate tends to leave out one key fact, though, which is that we assume the time we're living in (e-book time) is what will exist forever. Technology is moving fast, and I dare speculate that there will be something new in this arena, books that aren't books but are books still, sooner rather than later. Formats may die—and some day that Kindle will seem antiquated as well, mark its words—but stories won't. Because the thing about e-book readers, who both buy and borrow their reading materials, is that, pure and simple, they love books. [NPR]

Despite all of the above (and perhaps this goes to show that we don't need to mourn the death of print just yet), a Pew Research survey has found that "62 percent of readers didn't know if their library had e-books for lending, and only 12 percent of Americans 16 and older who read e-books had borrowed at least one from a library in the past year." Of course, some of this may be due to the fact that publishers had resisted allowing e-books to be borrowed at libraries. Penguin only just agreed this week to lend e-books to the New York Public Library, joining Random House and HarperCollins in the library-e-book-loan program. [Reuters]

Reading list! Ooh, this is fun. Books that "shaped America," from the Library of Congress, a list that includes books from Dashiell Hammett, Ray Bradbury, Dr. Seuss, Langston Hughes, Dr. Spock, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Irma Rombauer. It's also an exhibition, running Monday through September 29 in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library, showcasing books that "shocked people, made them angry, shook up their deepest beliefs." Michael Dirda writes, "Just skimming through the titles of 'The Books That Shaped America' underscores that in this country anything can be questioned, nothing is set in stone, everything can be changed. We are, after all, a nation founded and grounded in revolution." Sounds good, right? Goodnight Moon is included, too. [Washington Post]

The Apple anti-trust suit. In the case against Apple and several publishers over colluding to fix prices of e-books (to compete with Amazon), the U.S. government has claimed that Apple is rushing a deadline on evidence gathering by the end of the year. The government says they want until March to finish getting the facts of their case together. Apple has argued that there is "special urgency" in resolving the case due to public interests at stake—and they believe they've done nothing wrong. [AP]

The Daily News sent Alec Baldwin a basket of anger-management books. After he allegedly punched one of the paper's photographers, of course, for taking photos of him and fiancée Hilaria Thomas as they departed New York's Marriage License Bureau on Tuesday. What people will do for free books! [Daily News]

Here is your Reading Rainbow iPad app. You are welcome. [iTunes]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.