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Virtual does not equal real?

The Washington Post recently ran an article on author Ian McEwan's "virtual book tour." Instead of actually visiting a bunch of bookstores in different cities, McEwan, his publisher, and an independent bookstore made a video of him reading from and talking about his book.

It sounds so logical. Why waste time, money, and jet fuel travelling to a bunch of places you don't otherwise want to go to read to strangers when they can watch your virtual self while you sit at home and get more writing done?

Except I still remember my freshman sociology course. The professor never came to class. He had the whole lecture series on video tape (this was a while ago) and his teaching assistants would pop in the day's tape and let it run. The various lectures had been recorded over time so it was amusing to see how his clothes, hair, and moustache changed from one class to the next. However, I soon learned that with the benefit of some very good notes from someone who had taken the class before me, I didn't need to go to class at all. I went only to the labs (with a live teaching assistant) and still got an A.

I can see that happening with virtual readings. Readers will wonder why they have to leave the house if the author doesn't want to bother. Maybe the virtual tour will catch on when e-books do? The reader could sit at home, order his e-book online, read it, decide he wants to "see" that author and find him on YouTube or some other web venue.

Very efficient. Nothing missing but that personal connection between human beings.

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