Here’s something I’ve been thinking about said better than I could. It’s from Gord Sellar’s blog and deals with “Industrialization of Culture”. And while Gord’s speaking in terms of k-pop and girl groups, he mentions it being a wider trend:
I suspect it reflects (or caters to) some unsettling, unconscious desire new to consumerist culture for everything in the world — food, clothing, weather, scenery, sex partners, everything — to be subjected to the same process of standardization that so much of the stuff of our lives already has been. We can see examples of this elsewhere: the baffling (to me) desire to see bands play live, while expecting them to perform their songs exactly as recorded in the studio is one example. (I was shocked to discover this expected of me — indeed, encouraged by fellow musicians — when I played in a rock band.) The interest in foods that are consistent in a number of ways — hence the success of, and trust placed in, fast foods by travelers in distant lands. The experience of the international hotel, the boring coonsistency of the megabrew lager beer. All of these seem to be expectations possible only in a post-cultural, or rather consumer-cultural society.
One of the worst things about consumerism is that it gets a decade or two head start over our capacity to critique it. Actually that might be the worst thing.
Right now I see readers existing on a continuum. At one end we have the addict…
At the other end we have the fetishist…
“… wraparound gold embossed *gasp* slip cover with *pant* waxen end pages and *sniff* mint-tinged book binding glue *squee*…”
Of course both can and do exist in the same person, which is great as long as the overall environment they exist in is healthy. Trouble is that as the distance between poles increases, books cease to be objects we encounter in our day-to-day lives and reading becomes marginalized until it’s either as effortless as eating a tube of Pringles or so fraught with arcana that one expects rites and initiations, along with a full bank account, are required to do it.
Books as addictive substance, or books as art object, support either, but if one side wins it’s likely to be a loss for everyone.