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'The touchy-feely side'

27 July 2009

'Of course publishing companies should spend money and time on trying to define how the new digital world will work, making it easy to read books on whatever electronic devices appear. What I have a problem with is the inordinate amounts of time spent on the touchy-feely side: attempting to use these social networking sites to try to get inside the heads of people who may or may not at some time in some indefinable future be those that precipitate a financially viable conduit to readers of electronic books, or some such. It's all the hype about Facebook and Twittering and blogging and whatnot and how we can sell books through them.

What I don't seem to be able to fathom is any indication of how all this activity is making us any money - or, indeed, how we might turn it into making us some money. I do understand that there is benefit in facilitating readers to converse with one another in the manner of a virtual reading group but, however one cuts it, people like to talk face to face. That's why there are still pubs and airlines and why video conferencing equipment gathers dust in boardrooms. Human beings are social animals: physically social. That's why cinemas and concerts have never been more popular... E M Forster, The Machine Stops anyone?

I wonder if we are losing sight of the prize. Are we in danger of confusing this tidal wave of "choice" with that of empowerment?'

Trevor Dolby, Publisher of Preface, on Bookbrunch