For all the debates about the future of the book, which are getting both tedious and, well, whiny, there’s a refreshing new take on the matter. It’s a book called, er, It’s a Book.
Crafted by Lane Smith, it’s a simple but wry reminder of how books are good, standalone objects that don’t need to be fancy in order to engage us—the joy of reading is entertainment and pleasure enough. And what better way to convey it than with a YouTube video replete with a cartoon donkey and monkey?
The video opens with the donkey (with oh-so-cute, metronome-like vacillating ears) asking, ‘What do you have there?’
The monkey responds, ‘It’s a book.’
The donkey asks, ‘Can you scroll down?’
The monkey answers, ‘No, you turn the page. It’s a book.’
Donkey: ‘Can it tweet?’ (This also happens to be my favourite moment, with the donkey making a too-cute hand/hoof gesture when asking.)
Donkey: ‘Can it text?’
Donkey: ‘Can it WiFi?’
And so on.
The video has gone viral and, by all reports, the book has become a bestseller too. And no wonder. It’s a simple idea executed well, and perhaps conveys what most of us booklovers have struggled to convey all along: technology is great and has its place, but a good book is a good book and doesn’t need bells and whistles to shine.
That said, there’s no irony that It’s a Book uses web technologies such as YouTube to promote and sell the book. And successfully so. It’s also perhaps a sign of the future, with complementary tools such as blogs and quirky short videos with cartoon monkeys and donkeys (and penguins—the perennially popular penguins are sure to make an appearance) to promote them, potentially even drawing in a traditionally non-reading audience.
In many ways, this video reminds me of the Beached Whale series that went viral, although I’m not certain that there was a book attached to that, or that if there was, it came afterwards. Either way, ‘I’m beached as, bro’ has entered the collective consciousness and I can’t help but think the phrase ‘It’s a book’ will too—a shorthand for the fact that it doesn’t have to be anything more than it is. It’s a book. And that is more than enough.