Publishing in a post-book world?

poetry books on the shelvesThe other day a friend observed that we might be in a post-book world. After days of turkey and cranberry sauce, this was food for thought–and questions.

Are we in a post-book world? (Or is it a post-paper-book world?)

If we are, is that because people watch movies on their tablets instead?

Or is it because in an Internet age people expect content (including books) to be free?

Or is it a genre question? We can read about people who sell scads of books online or people who have built publishing empires by selling books for 99 cents a piece. But does that (can that) work for poetry? (To start a list of reasons: Poetry has a smaller audience, poetry scares some people.)

Or is it a question of abundance–with so many poetry books being published. That poetry audience has a vast wealth of choices for their time and money.

These questions aren’t new, and neither is the next one: How do you expand an audience? (Hint: I’m pretty sure community plays into it–but that’s a much-bandied-about term these days.) Another not-new question: How do writers–okay, poets–and publishers get paid for their work–in a digital world, in an Amazon world?

How does book publishing remain relevant and vibrant in the digital age? I think about newspapers–which have had to shift and have sometimes had a hard time shifting because a daily publishing schedule became ridiculously stale (now we’ll tell you what you already read about online 12 hours ago) or the USPS, which hasn’t found a way to keep paper and stamps in style as people turn to email and private carriers.

Clearly, I’m up in the air on this. I work for two online journals, I read some books on a Kindle, and I was published in Fire On Her Tongue–an e-anthology created entirely without paper, the editors’ commitment to the environment.

But I still prefer, when possible to read poetry on paper. I like the feel of paper in my hands. I like the solid formatting of type on a page. I like the covers, and I find the pages easier to browse through and skip around in and find again. I like the different shapes and the covers. And at the risk of shocking the minimalists and troubling my long-suffering husband, I like having them on the shelves and in stacks where I have a good chance of finding them when I want to read them again or look something up. Plus, no worries about low batteries.

I admit these aren’t new questions. Poetry’s demise has been rumored (falsely, I think) for years. But the phrase “post-book” got me thinking again–I’d hope in a new way.

What do you think a post-book world looks like? Are we living in it now? How does poetry fit in?