Just because many many kids love video games doesn’t have to mean that publishers should find lessons for their business in the games world does it? Michael Pietsch, CEO of the Hachette Book Group, did imply that we could learn from the games business in his talk to the Book Industry Guild of New York on 10 January, but I can’t really get my mind around this connection. (See Gaming! where I have ranted on this before.)
The movie business can almost not survive without books. Does this mean publishers have to mimic movies, whatever that might mean? The book commentariat have internalized the knowledge that we don’t need to bother to learn anything from the music business because of course we know they have suffered death by digital (which of course turns out to be nonsense). Just because kids play games doesn’t mean books should become game-like. What likelihood is there that a manic game player is going to shrug off the addiction and start reading books because they’ve found one with a few virtual reality features? No doubt there are a few books which might benefit from a bit more playfulness, but if you want to get into the games business, why not get into the games business? We are in the book business. Books are not games, and they are none the worse for that. When I was a youth I was wildly keen on rugby football. Nobody suggested that book publishing could learn from my enthusiasm and maybe turn reading into a team activity involving extreme physical contact. (Though I must say Book Shout seems to be attempting a bit of this by obsessively sending me daily e-mails telling me how I’m doing in my apparently competitive reading of Tony Judt’s Postwar: I keep getting told how I’m matching up against my daily target of 6,389 words — where did that number come from? If I hadn’t paid for the book I’d trash the app.! Are there really people out there who read in order to meet their daily word count, rather than to find out what the book says?)
Joe Wikert asks us to stop and consider how our static pages can be brought to life. I’ve considered it and the idea makes me want to throw up. I like my pages static thank you, and I cannot but believe that most book readers do too. Whizz-bang diversions are just diversions however exciting they may be. If you love to explore the sorts of VR things Mr Wikert is advocating, I did post some links a couple of years ago. While I suppose there might be a few virtual reality applications in the educational market, by and large books are for reading, and readers seem to be perfectly happy doing that. Just because there are ways of gussying up the process is no reason to do so. After all we still occasionally use our legs despite the invention of the bicycle.
See also Lessons from other media.