An Apology for Books

You probably know that, recently, social media service Snapchat was offered a $3 billion buy-out from Facebook. The founders rejected the offer, and the media went slightly batshit, unable to comprehend why and how someone could turn down so much money.1

If you were wondering why the Snapchatters turned the money down, the answer is actually pretty simple: They think the company is worth more than $3 billion. Why do they think this?

The New Yorker does an excellent job explaining in this piece: Why Did Snapchat Turn Down Three Billion Dollars?. But if you don’t want to read it, I can boil it down for you this way:

Attention is more valuable than money. Or, as the article puts it: “Attention is the real currency of social-media companies, and it can be mercilessly capricious, particularly among the most coveted demographic of all, youth.” And: “ephemeral social media [is] destined to become a fundamental, lasting phenomenon.”

Let’s repeat that: Attention is more valuable than money. You would think and hope, then, that books — which command your attention — would be hella valuable. But for the most part, no — the world seems to be in a rush to de-value books, with complaints that ebooks are “too expensive” and that books and authors need to “adapt” to the digital world and so on. The key word above is “ephemeral.” As in “not lasting.”

Snapchat lasts ten seconds. And that ten seconds is worth so much money that $3 billion can’t buy it.

With that in mind, then, I would like to apologize to the world of New Media on behalf of the Old Media. For lingering and sticking around and delaying the onset of the Edenic world of omnipresent, instantaneous, effortless communication. I’m really, truly sorry for books, for all these reasons:

  • I’m sorry it takes longer than ten seconds to read a book.
  • I’m sorry they are longer than 140 characters.
  • I’m sorry that they don’t get pushed conveniently to your phone in bite-sized morsels.
  • I’m sorry sometimes there are words you don’t understand that you have to look up. (Or, even worse, interpret through context.)
  • I’m sorry that sometimes you have to consider a sentence two or three times to really get it.
  • I’m sorry that not every question you have is easily, explicitly answered for you, leaving you to ponder it for days, weeks, months, or even years.
  • I’m sorry that you have to read between the lines. (And there are so many lines.)
  • I’m sorry books don’t move, beep, flash, and change every so often in order to hold your interest.
  • I’m sorry they might make you uncomfortable or make you question something you’ve always believed to be true.
  • I’m sorry you have to wait for them to be written and published.
  • I’m sorry they cost money.




(I’m actually not sorry at all.)

  1. I suspect the media was able to comprehend it just fine — but let’s face it, “The People Who Turned Down 3 Billion Bucks!” is the most clickable linkbait ever, right?

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