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The Last Bookshop (video)

This dystopian video has been passed around on Twitter this week. It’s really not all that likely to come about, but like ghost stories it will probably send a chill down your spine.

Here’s more from the Youtube description:

The Last Bookshop imagines a future where physical books have died out.

One day, a small boy’s holographic entertainment fails, so he heads out to explore the streets of abandoned shops outside. Down a forgotten alley he discovers the last ever bookshop. And inside, an ancient shopkeeper has been waiting over 25 years for a customer…

I really don’t see this future as being all that likely. While it comes across as a more benign version of Fahrenheit 451, it shares a conceptual flaw with that book.

It assumes that the culture of books has died out without actually looking at how that might happen. This premise has to be assumed because if someone tried to come up with an explanation for the decline of book culture, they would likely fail.  If nothing else the culture of books exists because it is taught, whether by a parent, teacher, or librarian. I do not see how that would go away.

But the joke at the end that all the books belonged to Amazon and selling them was copyright infringement was rather funny. And I do like how the kid wrote his own book. Unfortunately there was no one left to read it.

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carmen webster buxton April 19, 2013 um 5:12 pm

Nicely done but full of plot holes, as you say. For one thing, it assumes a book can’t continue to exist unless there’s a paper copy of it. I can just see some ancient Roman weeping because no one makes a proper scroll anymore. And at the end, I wanted to know if there were no books at all, and the kid had to make one with his shoelace, why did he still have paper and pens and pencils?

Nate Hoffelder April 19, 2013 um 5:56 pm

Good point about the paper. And where did he even get the idea to bind a book with his shoelace?

Francesco April 20, 2013 um 6:23 am

I think I am old enough to answer your question about the missing reason for the decline in reading culture in Fahrenheit 451. Before post-modernism, may people actually believed in progress , things inevitably got physically better . Electric stoves replaced wood fires, steam replaced sail, cars replaced horses, electric lights replaced candles. The old was discarded because it was obsolete & unnecessary, progress marched on like an unstoppable tide, remaking everything for the better. In this mind set one can set up books as the old and TV or movies as the new, belief in progress is the only justification then required to say that books will inevitably disappear.
Given that no one believes in progress any more Fahrenheit 451 has either served its purpose (in that its warning against chasing the new has succeded) or is a book out of time.

Nate Hoffelder April 20, 2013 um 8:10 am

The problem with the assumption that the new will replace the old is that the old stuff never completely dies out. It might not see as much use but it is still around. If we extend that idea to bookstores then you’d see that book culture would not die out completely.

Franc April 21, 2013 um 4:40 am

I suspect Ray Bradbury was creating a straw man (books going obsolete) in order to criticise the idea of progress. Some things do disappear entirely though, Ice cutters on walden pond. Galley slaves rowing into battle. Telegrams. Writing on clay tablets. Freon. Piston engined fighters. Carring swords for self defence.smallpox.

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