Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post: Hans Ostrom on the Next Decade in Book Culture

By Hans Ostrom

As we wind down the “aughts” decade, with digital books galore on the horizon (and the $195 Norton facsimile edition of C.J. Jung'sobjet d'art/culture The Red Book selling out around the country), the NBCC seeks the best guest posts about the future of book culture, including essays,interviews and free-range opining. The topic: How do you see book culture evolving over the next decade? Here is Hans Ostrom on the subject.

Imagine being alive when the Gutenberg Revolution swept Europe, when printing-technology had made pamphlets, novels, tracts, and anthologies not just possible but commonplace.  Obviously, we're in a parallel situation  with digital media, except our cultures and technologies change exponentially more quickly than those in the 15th through the 19th centuries. I  don't know precisely what will happen to “the book,” “the novel,” read, literature, and writing. No one does, but everyone guesses.   Hence the despair and fear.  But if we keep the Gutenberg Revolution in mind and consider how it changed cultures, arguably, for the better, we may be more likely to enjoy the uncertainty and adapt to the changes.  More people than ever are reading and righting, and every day people share “literature” globally. Heretofore unimaginable opportunities to change literature exist.   “May you live in interesting times”: we readers and writers are cursed and blessed to do just that.  Sometimes the waves of change will knock us down, sometimes we'll surf on top of them, and sometimes we'll just be out there paddling, waiting for the wave to approach.