How do you know what a book is? And what it's for? Or how it should be read. I like Richard Nash's idea that a book is more communal than we understand it to be. He points to the one positive growth area in the publishing world--that of the book club. Because yes, reading is a solo act but can it be said to be complete without the discussion portion? There is a part of me that thinks people in the industry are a tad afraid of the power of the book club and of the liberalization of the book discussion--after all, what will they do?
Of course I don't see one thing replacing another. That is to say intelligent discussion is always worth listening in on, and buying a paper, or a pass, or whatever, to be part of it. And that's the point. I don't want to know what your verdict is about a given book, I want to know what you think, what you wonder, what stays with you, what aspect of the text made you pause, what frustrated you, where did it lead your thinking? Did you walk away wanting to "do" something? Think something? Create something?
As for the physical representation that currently is the book--what if that changes? It has changed, and will likely continue to. What is of value is what we value. What is that?
What is a book? What is its purpose? Why are we so certain we know?