Hello -- is there an echo in here? Haven't we been having this conversation for, oh, say the last 10 years or so? The New York Times has apparently never heard about this until now. I'm sure they said the printed book was finished when someone invented paper, and that wall-scratching thing was ... just so-over.
Of course the book isn't finished! It's morphing, a verb that didn't even exist 10 years ago when this debate first started. It's morphing to products on YouTube like Shape of a Box. It's becoming a CD like A God You Can Dance (plug, plug -- and email me directly if you don't Amazon). It's turning into downloadable pdf chapbooks as at the redoubtable 2River, which I think practically invented the downloadable chapbook.
And most of all, it's online in a gazillion new ezines, one starting up just about every hour on the hour, fresh new faces like zafusy, poemeleon, Umbrella (okay, so this blog is full of plugs). So what if Google is putting every book ever written online someday? We'll figure out how to do those pay-per-downloads, the way you can do it on iTunes.
How about 99 cents a spoken word poem? Why not? Anyone want to start a new zine? All we need now is a title and a Paypal account.
Nothing - but nothing, not even the Kindle - will ever replace the tidy little bent-cover, worn-edged paperback you can cram into a purse or a really big pocket or an overnight case for the plane or the weekend or just coffee somewhere halfway quiet. Books will never die.
But as they say lately in book publishing, "Flat is the new up." Meaning sales - so get out there and give everyone a book for Christmas or Hanukkah.