Firstly, if you're reading this Scott, I apologise but it is honest criticism.
One of my favourite things to do is go to the pub. One of my favourite websites is beerintheevening.com. A fabulously simple yet enormous database of all the pubs in the country. You can type in streets, postcodes, towns and pub names and come up with opening times, services, photos and maps of the pub you're looking for but best of all you get a rating out of 10 and a list of user comments which may not all be entirely kosher but you soon learn to weed out the ones posted by the landlord and concentrate on the genuine comments. These can be abuse, praise or just reminiscences. You also get all the pubs nearest to the one you are currently looking at so you can compare and contrast.
Now The Friday Project is a new publisher that takes material from the web and erm, publishes it. One of its new titles is Beer in the Evening, a guide book taken from the website and what an overwhelming disappointment it is. No maps, No photos, No cross referencing nearby pubs and not as many comments as on the website.
I can see that they are attempting a kind of Zagat or Hardens style crossover here for pubs but the greatest thing about BITE is its free. You get all the restaurant reviews at zagat.com but you have to subscribe. The second greatest thing about BITE and the reason the internet is a marvelous joy to behold is its fluidity. You can add comments, interact. It makes BITE a living database and the book by comparison feels quite lifeless and empty.
And it set me to thinking about all the talk in publishing at the moment to do with technology, e-books, blogs and the future of the book. And it seems to me there is space for all these things. As with film and television some things just belong on a big screen and some on your telly box in the corner. And with text some belongs on the web, some in a magazine and some in a book. It's all about context at the end of the day and you have to choose the right media to serve the context of your work. Macmillan publishers are making most of their money at the moment selling english language text books and work books to India and China. I can't think of a better use for the new e-books coming on the market than as school aids. They could be cheap, durable and interactive. But likewise a novel just feels wrong on an e-book. I can't stand reading large chunks of a coherent and finite text on a screen even if it is the new inky screen and I still like turning pages. Art and Photography work much better as lovingly printed books. But I'd much rather read a blog on screen than as a book, it just feels right on a screen it's something about the never-ending quality of blogs, their unfinishedness suits the world of the web.
I don't think this marks me down as one of the technophobic fogeys because I love technology. I just appreciate that different materials require different forms of delivery and that is why the book will never die.
ps I have just finished watching season 5 of Curb Your Enthusiasm (not broadcast here yet) and it contains some of the most unparalleled comedic genius ever committed to video. One episode manages to include unfeasibly large vaginas, Orthodox Jews, edible panties and a ski lift. It is possibly my favourite ever. I'll leave it to all you Larry aficionados to join the dots on that one.