From his Northern California perch, tech publisher Tim O’Reilly twitters about the future of books:
I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit. And they’re relatively recent. The most popular author in the 1850s in the US wasn’t Herman Melville writing Moby-Dick, you know, or Nathaniel Hawthorne writing The House of the Seven Gables. It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writing long narrative poems that were meant to be read aloud. So the novel as we know it today is only a 200-year-old construct. And now we’re getting new forms of entertainment, new forms of popular culture.
This is so foolish and confused, so callous. It takes a remarkable degree of critical vacuity to suggest that because an art form is “relatively recent,” it lacks worth — that because the novel is “only a 200-year-old [sic] construct,” it’s somehow suspect, and disposable. And how sad and shallow to view the reading (or writing) of a book like Moby Dick as an exercise in elitism. It’s the antithesis of elitism.
Later in the interview, O’Reilly muses, “I think people in Silicon Valley don’t realize what a bubble they’re living in.” You can say that again, Tim.