Set in stone like a fossil

4 11 2009

I don’t mean to sound cynical here, but as a serious question… What’s the point of books these days? jurassic-park-coverLet me rephrase, because I still love getting completely lost in reading Jurassic Park cover to cover for the 18th time.  What is the point of non-fiction books? Again, that should probably be rephrased, but let’s see where that takes us for now.

It is no secret that the glory days of print newspapers are coming to an end as we move farther and farther into the digital age. Granted there is something peaceful about walking to the end of your driveway and reading the Funnies while sipping a cup of coffee. But Web-based newspapers allow for current, real-time updates on current events, unlike print, which is set in stone as soon as ink hits the paper.

Say that again… “Set in stone.” THAT’S the issue. Today, nothing new is set in stone. New things are always happening, and sometimes we don’t want to wait till tomorrow morning’s paper to read about it. We need to be constantly informed and updated about worldly events. But enough hating on newspapers, I think you get the point.

Which brings me around to my original point. I think this hit me in during class today, when the professor casually mentioned a book on Google Analytics and how it is fairly new, but might need some updating. How can you update a book? Sure, I can look at any of my text books and see “version 3” scribbled at the bottom, but re-printing thousands of copies anytime there is something new to add can be very expensive.

And books do not come together overnight, for sure. Granted my knowledge in writing, publishing, and distributing books is fairly limited, but I can take an educated guess that the process usually takes more than a couple of days. The problem is that as soon as a book hits the shelves, it could already be outdated (this is also why I chose to leave fiction books out of the equation)

The Internet provided opportunities to update, edit, refine, revise, etc any content in real-time. So my text book printed in 2006 could make a great display at the antique store downtown, or be uncovered tomorrow in my nifty time-capsule.

Now, obviously, this doesn’t apply to every non-fiction book either. There is no reason to update history books (unless something monumental happened that reframes our understanding of past events), and math equations are fairly safe set in stone… but there are certain printed materials that would be better suited as online material that can be kept updated, and thus, relevant.

So I guess the question I am asking is… What’s the point of printed material that relates to current events or situations, and in some cases, books? Seems like they might go the way of Crichton’s creatures… extinct.