Earlier this week, L.V. Anderson posted an article on Slate.com arguing that due to the many virtues of ebooks, websites and apps, the print cookbook will eventually go extinct. Not only that, she heartily agrees that this is a good way to go. Her arguments basically boil down to the idea that the only reasons to keep print cookbooks around are sentimental and are therefore invalid.
Do you agree or disagree?Anderson posits that print cookbooks are basically only purchased as gifts and will eventually be wiped out by cooking apps, e-books and websites as the market continues to adjust towards consuming online content. Think Netflix subscriptions and iTunes playlists, she suggests. The minority of people who do purchase cookbooks for themselves do this for three reasons: quality of recipes, readability of recipes, and aesthetic value which, Anderson argues, online media is for the most part better at.
Will some cookbook lovers resist these improvements? Yes, but eventually they will all be dead. Will some rich people always seek out obscure memorabilia to display as status symbols or art objects? Yes, but in the future, cookbooks will be quirky art objects in the same sense that typewriters are today. Their value will be in their history, and the rest of us will wonder how anyone ever cooked from them in the first place.
Cookbook store owner Celia Sack responds with her own view, stating that while her first response was to think of Anderson as a knucklehead, she also gets it. She concludes in her post on Inside Scoop SF:
I'm not sure sometimes why we get into this war over who will win, technology or olden ways. There is obviously room for both in some fields. I don't own a cell phone (I know, I know), but I've garnered over 9,000 followers on Twitter from using my desktop computer. I have peace and quiet in the evenings and on weekends when I'm out of computer-range, reading books, weeding the yard, shucking oysters, but am completely in touch during the week with my computer in front of me. Both ways work for me, and I refuse to get in my corner and fight for one way or the other. Ditto cookbooks; there is room for print and virtual versions, and I believe both will endure. And that's O.K.
Personally, as an avid user of both print and digital media, I'm in Sack's camp. There's room for both. I think Anderson misses the point when she assumes that cookbooks are primarily vehicles for transmitting information and should be judged solely on that criteria. As one commenter on the Slate post writes, "cookbook is not merely serving my efficiency and the need to get food on the table tonight. A cookbook offers escapism, inspiration, and, quite frankly, a tangible aesthetic experience not too far off from the tangible aesthetic experience of eating ... Yes, it is sentimental to appreciate the notes my mother wrote in her cookbook, but it is not "nonsensical" to think this way." Here, here!
The question is, of course, whether there are enough people who feel this way to support the manufacturing of print cookbooks. Only time will tell. But movies didn't kill radio and television didn't kill the movies. Historically, these technologies have adjusted to co-exist with a less dominate part of the market but still alive and well.
When I look around and see the hunger for a tactile experience in this digital age, especially among the under 35 DIY-ers who flock to canning workshops and butchery classes, I have hope that this will carry over to print media as well. To me, the physicality of an object, the way it is used and bears the marks of that use, is valuable. Objects exist in time and space just as humans do and therefore they bear the marks of existence just as we do and can carry a tiny bit of our aliveness in a way that 'clicks' and 'likes' just can't reach. Is this sentimental? Perhaps. And that, too, is OK.
Read L.V. Anderson's complete post on Slate: The Future of Cookbooks
Read Celia Sack's complete post on Inside Scoop SF: The Choices We Make, and the Future of Cookbooks
What do you think? Is the print cookbook on its way out? Do you only use apps and the web to find your recipes?
Related: Kitchen Contemplation: How Many Cookbooks is Too Many Cookbooks?
(Image: Dana Velden)