The Internet And Books
Connectivity - Internet Nerve Connections- Books
In these days of fast changing and emerging, merging, inter and intra-acting morphing and submerging technologies and their technological gadgets and the embedded techniques, the past chirographic culture and how it transmitted information to those seeking it, has today gone to be virtually streaming and viral; so, there is a perception as if the present modes of information dissemination and storage are a new phenomenon engendered by these machines, which makes it very important for us to begin to understand how, when and how we got to this point in our mass consuming and the virtual information reality and meaning we are faced with today.
One other point to note is that J, David Bolter is right that possibly the future computers will emerge as as a new kind of book, expanding and enriching the tradition of writing technologies.
Postman writes" "Since printing created new form of literature when it replaced the handwritten manuscript, it is possible that electronic writing will do the same. But for the moment, computer technology functions more as a new mode of transportation than as a new means of substantive communication."
The computer, in fact, makes possible the fulfillment of Descartes dream of the mathematizing of the world. Attend any conference on telecommunications or computer technology, and you will be attending a celebration of innovative machinery that generates, stores, and distributes more information, more conveniently, at greater speeds than before.
This is the elevation of information to a metaphysical status: information as both the means and end of human creativity. As with so many of the features of all that is modern; the origins of information glut can be traced many centuries back. Nothing could be more misleading than the claim that computer technology introduced the age of information.
The printing press began the age in the early sixteenth century. Forty years After Gutenberg converted an old wine press into a printing machine with movable type, there were presses in 110 cities in six different countries. Fifty years after the press was invented, more than eight million books had been printed, almost all of them filled with information that had previously been unavailable to the average person.
There were books of law, agriculture, politics, exploration, metallurgy, botany, linguistics, pediatrics and even good manners. There were also assorted guides and manulas, the world of commerce rapidly became a world of printed paper through the widespread used of contracts, deeds, promissory notes, and maps."
It is important for us to know the history of books before one can make wild claims about the computer being the originator of the information highway and provider, as it exists today. Postman further informs us thus: 'So much new information, of so many diverse types, was generated that printers could no longer use the scribal manuscript as their model of a book.'
By the mid-sixteenth century, printers began to experiment with new formats, among the most important innovations being the use of Arabic numerals to number pages (The first known example of such pagination is Johann Froben's first edition of Erasmus' New Testament, printed in 1516.)
Pagination led inevitably to more accurate indexing, annotation, and cross-referencing, which in turn was accompanied by innovations in punctuation marks, section heads, paragraphing, title-paging, and running heads. by the end of the sixteenth century, the machine-made book had a typographic form and a look comparable to books of today."
By the time Gutenberg introduced and invented the printing press, the bible was the most widely read manuscript. The print culture itself present a myriad of problems of the day. The printing of books presented itself to the criticism that it was a runaway technology that would lead to a cultural crisis.
Marshall McLuhan pointed to the loss of familiar historical perspectives. He pronounced historical modes of inquiry as obsolete and the Age of Gutenberg as an end. He pointed out to the special problems posed by print media. The increased load and rate of publication leading Mc Luhan to pointing out how this overload of printing could lead to incoherence.
There were consequences that came about with the importance of the shift from script to print in the Fifteenth century, This facilitated for shift in the areas which were experiencing change in modern Europe. The shift from script to print meant that a large ensemble of changes, and one of them was that an increased reliance on rule books was not good as learning then up to that time.
The shift from the books to the Internet brings along some changes which affected the culture of reading books. The discipline brought about reading a whole book was seemingly going to be lost in the change. While the internet brings about global connectivity, at the same time it erodes what book reading does and has as it effects the reader.
On the net, the logger or webber surfs, logs and can retrieve information form a diverse sources. They can also read, but the reading activity is a different activity from reading a book. There are pop ups and other activities that one engages in on the internet; there are Blogs and newspapers, magazines and scholarly research papers and so forth.
The explosion of the Internet brought with it a new language. The language of books can be used by readers to develop the themes of their own books. The language of the Internet is now used by both laymen, linguistics and language students to develop their newly acquired multi-tasking skills and web surfing know-how and emerging, merging and submerging ways and meanings of viral communications of communication:
Memes - memes can refer to an idea, concept, phrase or any other unit of information that goes viral; or it can mean pictures, videos, links and other content that spreads quickly from on person to another through the Internet.
Very early on, it was understood that the printed book had created an information crisis and that something needed to be done to maintain to maintain a measure of control. The altered form of the book was one means. ... The rapid growth of common schools was made obvious and possible as a necessary response to the anxieties and confusion by information on the loose.
The invention of what is called curriculum was a logical step toward organizing, limiting, and discriminating among available sources of information. Schools were, in short, a means of governing the ecology of infornation." Today we see the proliferation of laptops which have changed the culture and facade of classroom aesthetics, forms and ways of knowing and learning
Books and Reading.
From the early times of the first printed books, the most important of them was the Bible and the Book of Nature. Even when the books were printed, they did not immediately effect the spreading of knowledge as they do today.. Galileo was of the view that books like the book of nature although they were open for public inspection, was not really given to eery man to know and read. But as books become common over the years, and in the US, books were made available to its population, the acquirement of more knowledge, along with rhetoric developed. This in turn encouraged the readers of books to acquire ways of reading analytically and be able to write their own books too.
A person reads for many reasons and in many different ways. Whatever ones reason and method , reading is most rewarding when you do it in thoughtful spirit, and with an alert and inquiring mind, preferably with a pencil or pen in hand. Reading analytically in this way helps one get more form your reading because you will remember and understand what you read fully. Analytical reading will be useful to a person and all the aspects of their lives. Reading analytically helps one succeed in school, excel in the workplace, and better interact with the world around one. Among all these positive outcomes, one of the greatest benefits of analytical reading is that it helps people become better writers. By becoming an active reader this in turn makes one becomes a stronger writer. By becoming more familiar with the different type of writing, and this sharpens the mind and critical thinking skills; and, in the process learn how good writers make decisions in their writing.
Another way of looking at the effects of the Internet on books, is that Librarians find the internet to be a blessing. It provides opportunities to add services and expand their collections; but, it has also increased user expectations and contributed to techno-stress. The net, today, is challenging librarians with new problems of access, preservation, serious demands on budgets and occupying information professionals with legal problems and controversies. While the Internet seems to be looming on the technological horizon, you see, from the library of Congress, Center for the Book promoting literacy in the libraries and encouraging historical study of books, reading and printed word. The center's web site www.loc.gov/cfbook is a resource linking 250 organizations, country-wide. Another site worth looking at is www..loc.gov/bookfest is involved with community reading projects throughout the country. Books also presented knowledge as managed by the few; Internet is knowledge provided for and managed by the many. Books and those who control their production are characterized by a style of feudal academic,knowledge exchange system, whereas, the web creates a new forum and format of reading and learning and intellect, yet has the ability to disconnect focus, concentration and book reading. Jacques Ellul, quoted in Norris 1991:158 says: "The answer is simple enough, this definition ... is false [that's right: false, not true] and feeble: it supposes a bad [that's right, bad, not good] and feeble reading of numerous texts, first of all mine, which therefore must finally be read or re-read." Although a disconnect is happening between reading books and surfing the net, there is some considerable writing and reading on the net that it might take some time to discard the culture of reading a book. I know there are some internet book already used and circulating, I still think book reading structures the mind and disciplines thinking and writing. This will make relevant Clifford Geertz's point that: "intellectual debate is to allow its participants to vex each other with ever greater precision, precisely in order to ensure some measure of overall intellectual advance." The discipline acquired from reading books and writing books is what streamlines and constructs our minds to be able to advance our peers and those in the past. I am not sure how it is translating in terms of reading in the Internet in these days of blogging, texting and twittering. I think some publishing rules have been relaxed and grammar rules and the efficiency one finds in books is more lax. Books are still being bought and sold and published, so maybe the world of reading books is still open to anyone who wants to read books, or, as the Internet has afforded, listened to. Books teach us how to 'read between the lines' and they also help and teach us how to 'write between the lines'. The latter is attained if one is determined to do the most efficient kind of reading because we buy books and own them, but we need to read them.
Some people by best sellers and leave them unread and untouched. Others have many books, read some, dipped into most of them, the rest left still new and never ever been read. Some have a few books or many. Each and everyone has dogears, decrepit and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual used and marked, underlined, highlighted and scribbled from back to front. We can simply say that the last man owns his books. Books teach us to learn whenever we mark them up. This helps us to keep awake, and active reading is a thinking, and when we think we tend to express it with words, spoke or written. In the end, writing helps us remember the thoughts one had, or the author's thoughts. Books teach us speed reading, which does not necessarily make one intelligent, because some books need to be read faster, others slowly. Intelligent reading means being able to read different things differently and according to their worth. Marked books cannot be borrowed to others, but they remain a kind of intellectual diary, and lending them out is like giving your mind away to someone. Books, and their other effects are too numerous to list here, but, I thought it was important to remind us of some values that are brought about by books and reading books.
Are we Now More Intelligent?
Nicholas Carr writes: "Is Google making us stupid? Over the past few years I have had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or someone, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind is not going-as far as I can tell, but it's changing. I am not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it strongly when I am reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught-up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through the long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle." What seems to be coming through is that the users of the Internet are not reading online in the traditional sense of reading a book with its chapters. The usage of the internet has its own transforming effects on our ability to read and think, as we did when reading and thinking what we read on the book. Carr states that the internet promises to have particularly far reaching effect on cognition. He further states that: "The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It's becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV". Are we really becoming smarter or dumber? The racy nature of the culture of the internet, surfing, googling, e-mailing, posting, commenting, texting, faxing, blogging, searching, all seem to affect and effect our attention span and 'reprogramming our memories',as noted by Carr. In this case, technology and the technique embedded within it are taking over the functions of our mental abilities and capabilities; we have already ceded our core being and acquired a dependency on all the emerging technological gadgets and their 'efficiencies- seems like technology has taken over our lives, and we have an indefatigable craving and dependency on its wizardry and coping techniques embedded therein.
Carr wraps his rapport thus: "When the net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net's image. It injects the medium's content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we're glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper's site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse concentration." Old media have little choice but play by the new-media's rule. Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives-or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts, as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that has been written about the Net, there's been little consideration of how, exactly, it's reprograming us. The net's intellectual ethic remains obscure." Carr has given us a sense of what and how these activities infuse,diffuse mesh and morph within our consciousness and intellect And ways of learning and life. The advance that have been made in interactive and inter-connective telecommunications has but in a few years changed the way we communicate and interact with one another, understand, know, perceive, talk,w write- the whole gamut. The Internet itself is not a dangerous entity. It is a positive and highly beneficial to improving our education, information exchange and commerce in the coming years. It also has a downside of effects that we will need to explore in another Hub.
Is the Internet a Clear and Present Danger?
But, the darker side of the medium is characterized by Dave Barry this way: "The Internet as a worldwide network of university, government,business, and private computer systems, run by thirteen year old named Jason." One could say that the way this technology is evolving the Internet is accessible to children as it is inaccessible to many adults. Children have accessibility to this new technology independent of their parents. Whenever the policy makers consider the Internet in the public interest, the whole public and children must be seen as individual participant in the cyber juggernaut.
We still need to understand the media that we are handling and d We tend to glorify technological process and not look at its effects and affects. We become blinded by its innovations as a kid is blinded by a new and shiny toy. But, there is a method to this fast moving stem. Carr interestingly states: "The idea that our minds should operate as high speed data processing machine not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network's reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web, the more links we click and pages we view, the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the Commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flip from link to link, the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading, or slow, concentrated thought. It's their economic interest to drive us to distraction"..
Book printing and prolonged reading brought about by books has readers who display the incoherence the internet creates creating a dislocation of cognition to people. We are still learning the effects and affects of this new system of super knowledge and so forth. Are we getting any smarter because we use the internet more or read books less? We will find out more on this topic on the research and the time needed to be much clearer. The Internet can be of service if it can be placed in the service of humanity, and promotes our integral development for the benefit of all. If increased connectivity leads to cognitive dissonance, we must then work very hard to put the Internet into coherence. Take the example of Book Publishing and the Internet. Today's technology allows writers who want to author books in front of the audience can do so. Unlike the traditional publishing customs that take from 18 to 24 months, or some which require some substantial investment of the author's money, a novel written in series on the Internet let writers control their content, track hits and read feedbacks. It also eliminates storage and inventory requirements.
Spatial changes give a tone to a communication, accent it, and at times even override the spoken world. The flow and shift of distance between people as they interact with each other is part and parcel of the communication process. The normal conversational distance between strangers illustrates how important are the dynamics of space interaction. In social and intra-interpersonal relationships give birth to socialized interactive reactions. The normal conversational distance between strangers is instantaneous and automatic the other person backs up. And if he gets too close again,, back we go again. For instance, one can observe this in American behavior, who will back up the entire length of a long corridor while a foreigner whom he considers pushy tries to catch up with him. This scene has been enacted thousands of times - one person trying to increase the distance in order to be at ease, while the other tries to decrease it for the same reason, either one being aware of what was going on. If one were to observe then, we have here an example of the tremendous depth to which culture can condition behavior.
In addition, new technologies linked to computers, telephones, digital devices, satellites, and other fiber optic lines have dramatically multiplied and personalized the media choices available to the public. They have also created a culture through which they condition our behavior, actions, thoughts and reality. This in turn affect us in a myriad ways; the bewildering array of communication technologies were under development by large corporations and smaller entrepreneurs, with many devices being promoted as the communication technology that could dominate the others in the future.(J. Bittner) But by the mid-1990s it was clear that no single technology or channel would dominate the communication media landscape of the future. Instead, people learned to pick and choose from different media, all of them according to a wider range of choices. In the past, new technologies were billed as the key to the mass audience, but in the 1990s new media technologies and services were touted for their ability to pinpoint, target, and deliver information to targeted segments of the public and turn profits at the same time. They made their money not from mass audience, but by slicing, targeting, and reaching desired segments in the mass audience. These technological advances accelerated the media transition from mass communication to class communication. These in turn these class relations into mass communicated, media dominated conditioned relationships.
Throughout the electronic age, people have become accustomed to interacting with digital media indirectly, mediated through screens and peripheral devices. But now, as digital technology becomes invisibly embedded in everyday things, the "feeling" of everyday things is also increasingly becoming ensconced, encrypted and embedded in digital technology. In many senses, physical objects are becoming more important. In an immediate way, they can help us define new systems of relationships with digital information. This shapes how perceptions and gestures formed through our experiences with physical products can effectively liberty to the relationship between brain, body and digital media interface." People have learned how patterns and archetypes from products design now frame new ways for people to orientate themselves around information; how that principle of stimulating one sense through another to create multi-sensory interactions. People have gained cognizance of the new developments at the collision point between the "real world" objects and "digital interfaces."
The Death of the Book; Emergence of the E-Book
In regards to the death of books, S. David Mash informs us thus: "In his 1979 book, "The Micro Millennium, Evans forecasted that due to electronic media, "the 1980s will see the book as we know it, and as our ancestors created and cherished it, begin a slow but steady side into oblivion.... there are a number of reasons this is imminent." Evans reasons notwithstanding."the book as we know it" did better than survive the decade - it thrived at unprecedented levels in terms of both publishing volume and sales. At the end of the 1980s, The Center for the Application of Technology to Biblical and Theological Studies published its forecast that by the end of the 1990s, every college student would be required to own a PC, e-mail would include talking replicas of the individual sending the e-mail in full color 3-D image and 20D40% of White collar workers would operate from intelligent video work centers in their home. Book reading robots would be developed and over 90% of the word's extant print media would be in digital form. All magazines would be in video format and very little information would continue to be printed on paper.But the book has thrived in the 1990s as it did in the 1980s at unprecedented levels in terms of both publishing volume and sales," (see Picture in Picture gallery).
Paperless Reality and the emerging E- Book Industry
Given the advantages of the humble book, it seems inconceivable that it could ever be replaced by an electronic reader. But, just as the music, film and television industries have been forced to grapple with the consequences of the internet, publishers are facing up to the digital threat. In the latest in a series of industry moves to embrace the digital world, Random House announced that it would allow readers to download chapters of books. HarperCollins, which is owned by New Corporation, parent company of the The Times, has revealed plans to allow readers access to previews of new titles online. British and American publishers have thus far rushed to digitalize their back catalogues. The slow death of the book may be with us. Most bibliophiles balk at the merest hint that digital e-books could replace "ral books". But vinyl-lovers sneered at CDs. Those who lovingly categorized their CD collections were seduced, in turn, by the i-Pod Just as the ancient poets who sung the of the wrath of Achilles from memories, were indignant when some young turk suggested writing the Iliad down for the first time.
Much has been written about the tactile relationship that a reader has with a book that will fend off the Internet challenge. But the real savior of books has been their simplicity and their portability, as well as lack of a real alternative. A new generation of e-books is emerging that will will challenge the real book. Amazon has launched its Kindle e-book, which although it has not yet been as effective outside the US, the bibliophiles should be very afraid. Also, Barnes and Noble has launched its 'Nookcolor reader' touch screen, which in effect shows the emergence of various kinds of e-books as the decades and years roll bye. It may be difficult, and painful, to predict that the e-book will vanquish the real book, but publishers have to work on the assumption that it could happen. Businesses and reference books are already making the transition to e-books. The ability to search chunks of texts an carry huge reference books in your palm is invaluable to some professions. Already, law libraries stand empty as lawyers search cases on their computers. The transition for the fiction reader will be sower, but it is a real possibility that the real book will suffer the same fate as the law libraries.
Less Paper or More Downloads
Reading a Book Is still Fundamental
According to David Mash, "There's a saying that "prediction is difficult, especially of the future." Yet the death-of-the-book-as-we-know-it forecasters ply their trade with confidence. It seems there is no test oft he prophet in this business an every few years the terms of the prophecy are retooled to reflect the latest technology. Everyone has a new epiphany and the cycle rolls over once more. With the new millennium before us [already now past its first decade- my addition], we are assured anew that paper-based information delivery is on the verge of total collapse(again) [and even to date- my addition], and that full content, high-quality virtual libraries and e-books-a-million sites will spontaneously materialize over the Internet to fill the void.. Access will be unencumbered and inexpensive(or free). soon, we are promised, e-book reading devices costing less than &100 will weigh half a pound and hold one million titles. And Steven Levy admonishes: "So, "Forget Paper... here come e-books...the physical object consisting of bound dead trees in shiny wrapper is headed for the antique heap.... books are goners." Indeed, the children of students beginning college in the fall of 200 "are maybe never going to see a book." [see photo in the Picture Gallery Wherein one see how children in the Fall of 2011 will begin using Tablets], and somewhat solidifying the point just made by Susan Mallow. For a quarter of century the prospect of the death of the book has receded on the horizon . Reality can be downright downright stubborn! Decades of evocative visions have produced an evocative vision industry. But tangible assets making it possible to abate our dependence on paper-based information remain far from realized. Even with the phenomenal growth growth in size and importance of the Internet and other digital information formats, paper-bsed information continues to grow unchecked. Through the decade of the 1990s, the period of the rise of the Internet as the latest hope for a digitized future, paper-based information delivery steadily increased at levels exceeding the pre-Internet era. A recent four year study(Tulip Final Report), among nine leading leading American Universities(Carnegie Mellon University), concluded, against prior expectations of study participants, that the end of paper-based information is not on the visible horizon. Reason include more expense, less user satisfaction, and greater technical complexities associated with managing large digital collections vis-a-vis large paper collections.(David Mash)
Less paper and more downloads means that a lot of people are going to be left out of the educational loop. This means that a lot of people are going to be made and left more illiterate before the advent of the computer, and at the same will have less access to books because the new technological Internet juggernaut has about taken over written text in a book format. According to Jose Marti: "Education was a natural right, and by being born, everyone acquired "the right to be educated, and then, in turn, the duty of contributing to the education of of other(Each one teach one; each one reach one- African American mantra and saying). Education was the one fundamental necessity for democracy and freedom, for "an educated country will always be free." Marti adds: "Education should be so common among women that one who has it is not noticed nor does she herself notice it. ...The men or women who lacked elementary knowledge would not be able to fulfill themselves, either individually or socially. Knowing how to read is knowing how to walk. Knowing how to write is know how to ascend. Feet, arms, wings, all these are given to man by his first and most humble schoolbooks. ...Ignorance and superstition makes barbarians of men in in every nation. The lesson to be learned from studying the history of man (told by way of his houses) was that man is the same everywhere, and appears and progresses in the same way, and makes and thinks the same things, their only differences being those determined by the lands in which they live. All peoples of the world know one another better and visit back and forth. There are more young people than old in tis world. Most of humanity is composed of youths and children. Youth is the age of growth and development, activity and liveliness, imagination and impetuousity. When you have failed to take good care of your heart and mind while young, you may well fear that your old ge will be desolate and sad."
Finally, Marti writes: "An ignorant people can be deceived by superstition and become servile. An instructed people will always be strong and free. an ignorant man is on his way to becoming a beast, and a man instructed in knowledge and conscience is on his way to being a god. One must not hesitate to choose between a nation of gods and a nation of beasts. The best way to defend our rights is to know them well; in so doing, one has faith and strength; every nation will be unhappy in proportion to how poorly educated are its inhabitants. A nation of educated men will always be a nation of free men. Education is the only means of being saved from slavery. A nation enslaved to men of another is as repugnant as being enslaved to the men of one's own."
One of the topics left out in this article is books written by Black writers. Nathaniel Sheppard writes: "There is a new Black literary club on the Web that I think you will enjoy. It is called the African American Literature Book Club at www.aalbc.com. Started in march, the site offers more than 250 pages of content, a virtual poetry reading section with sound clips of poets reading their works, hundreds of book descriptions and dozens of book reviews. There also are writer resource material, movie review, an Afrocentric crossword puzzle and an at-times interesting stream of consciousness column by someone named Clinque. You can discuss books, writing, marketing and other areas of interest related to literature on the site's discussion forum. The literary club club offers free Web page design, hosts chats with authors and links to other sites of interest to African Americans."
Sheppard adds: "The book club partners with Barnes and noble, which provides a link to the bookstore allowing you to buy books online. Be warned: The Barnes and Noble site, with the lure of big discounts, can be expensive. You can browse other Web sites for a better deal. For example, Drum and spear Books (www.drumandspear.com, another online service that specializes in African-American literature, offers a 20 percent discount on most of its inventory. The well-organized site has a new releases page, a section for children's titles, as well as romance, and also sells calendars, crafts and gourmet cuisine. The African American Literature Book Club has books by Chinua Achebe, Maya Angelou, and one gets a list of their works, which if purchased in total would gobble-up ones purse. The AALBC increases everyone's knowledge of the richness that is African American Literature and a forum for free and open exchange of ideas and opinions on African American Literture." The even offer it in the Blog a Kindle Edition)
According to Sheppard: "It accomplishes these goals, to a degree, despite a Web page whose top level fails to clearly lay out a path for this. Rather than establish a road map visitors could ollow and make most of this site, the book club's appeals for support. Visitors are left to explore the site by clicking on one of the 14 navigation buttons. Nonetheless, once inside this hidden jewel of a site, there are ample features hold your attention and enhance your appreciation of Black authors and their literature. The site's promo says it contains profiles of 150 authors. Click the Author profile button to go to the authors section. Its text too, is primarily concerned with sales, but their page has navigation buttons on the left for the list of authors grouped by category: females, males, new authors, poets, gay and lesbian, Harlem Renaissance and religious and spiritual. The link to female authors takes you to a page that lists 14 writers. Clicking on a name pops up lists on their works, photos of book covers and some reviews. But there is a little, if anything, to tell you about the authors. It is the same with the male authors link. Of 18 listed, only Aesop from ancient greece is profiled. You either know the others or get to know them thorugh the works that are highlighted."
We read further from Sheppard when he states: "Perhaps the most useful and complete area of this site is its Writer Resources section. It is a model of what the rest of the site could be. It first offering is a list of 2,600 publishers, which can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets software through FTP download. It also contains the e-mail addresses of more than 900 media outlets authors could use to get their materials published, a list of African American bookstores organized by states, a list of dozens of magazines that accept poetry and other submissions, ad a list of reading groups organized by location. ...Another touch is their site's Virtual Poetry Reading page from which you can click on the photos of writers and hear sound clip of them reading their works. This page features authors such as R. Spotty King, Jaci LaMon, Angelou, brooke susan parker, Rita Dove and David Hunter. If you want to weigh-in with your own opinions or reviews of books, you can do so in Thumper's Corner, the site's message board discussion area. Several threaded discussions already are underway on authors, their works and issues in Black Literature. Access is from the site's main page." By now, this site had improved a lot and it is worth checking. This brings about the good uses of the internet and the propagation of books and reading- whether online or the book itself.
The hope is that the new technologies and the systems, Internet in this case, will not take over our abilities and capabilities to be diverse in our reading and independent in our thinking, and unique in our behaviors, it will or might only enhance our reading, which has not yet been the case. A mass public, dominated by the culture of new technologies and gadgets, which creates a culture in this consuming milieu o new high tech, might end up losing their authentic human-beingness. Also, we are positing and arguing that the Internet is chaos, depended on the order we bring to it individually, to manage it, or that our liberty depends on chaos which is to misunderstand the Internet and the nature of our liberty. Books in this case will remain the guiding light in the era of darkness and ignorance- books and reading will always remain fundamental.
Technical Progress Is Always Ambiguous
Our last example has to do with the problem of the intellectual culture of the masses. True, today's technical means permit a mass culture to exist. Television allows people who never visited a theatre in their lives to see performances of great classics. Paris Match, through its articles, allows masses of people who would be in total ignorance without such articles to attain to a certain literary (and even to a certain aesthetic) culture. But,on the other side of the ledger, it must be recorded that this same technical progress leads to an ever increasing cultural superficiality. Technical progress absolutely forbids certain indispensable conditions of a genuine culture, viz., reflection and opportunity for assimilation. We are indeed witnessing the creation of knowledge, since we are in possession of the means of knowing what we could never have known before; but it is nevertheless a superficial development because it is one which is purely quantitative.
The intellectual no longer has any time to mediate on a book and must choose between two alternatives: either he reads through a whole collection of books rapidly, of which a little later but a few fragments survive-scattered bits of vague knowledge; or, he takes a year to peruse a few books thoroughly. to do them justice would require months and months; but today's technique forbids any such thing. Exactly the same holds for the problems of imaginaton. We can be in contact with the whole painting and sculpture of humanity; but this availability has no cultural value comparable to spending years studying, statue by statue, the ensemble of artistic works at ones disposal. This in the end penetrates our personality slowly but fully. So that we can see that Technique allows us to progress quantitatively to the level of culture spoken of, but at the same time interdicts us from making any progress in depth. We cannot believe that technique brings us nothing, but we must not think that what i brings is free of charge.
With the coming of the Internet and all the emerging technologies and new gizmos, we are launched into a world of an astonishing degree of complexity; at every step we let loose new problems and raise new difficltues. We succeed progressively in solving these difficulties, but only in such a way that when one has been resolved, we are confronted by another. People have developed a short attention-span due to the nature of the fast moving viral primordial surfing streams. This has affected the ind-depth and deep needed reading into books which would affect our thinking; and our thinking, because of the shortness of time allowed by the new techniques embedded in the type of reading one has to do on the Web, has increased dyslexia and deep thinking that comes with reading whole sets of books. Technical progress is always ambiguous, and such is the progress of technonology in our society.
Networked Books and the Future of Reading
What will the future of reading be like? Will reading long form narratives be imperiled by our fast-paced modern world? We are entering a future [if not already in one], in which we are always connected, receiving feeds, e-mails and phone calls. Cellphones are rapidly becoming portable, as are touchscreen computers. In ten years cell phones and small portable computers will have more memory and capabilities that the best desktops today.. Everything-our pictures, music, work documents, financial information, books, videos, personal records-will be available everywhere, all the time.With WiFi, WiMax, or some other sort of high-speed Internet connection we can look forward of ubiquitous always-on, always connected computers. The difference between virtual and physical reality is rapidly become meaningless and dimly blurred.
Many people already live the connected lifestyle with 'crackberries' giving them a constant feed of e-mail and text. Journalists and bloggers stay constantly online through RSS feeds, Twitter, friendfeeds, e-mail alerts and Facebook alerts and the whole bit. Gamers and 2nd Lifers experience a large portion of their lives in simulated worlds. The present is overwhelming, and a large chunk of the human populace has been made obsolete and without usable skills. The digital world is all around us, but the is a huge chasm of dislocation of cognition as a result of the presence and usage of technology, technique and the fast-paced nature of vial streams. Computers and the new chip technologies are found embedded in our clothes,contact-eye lenses, cars, houses, everywhere where one looks. Fewer people are going to the library and reading physical books and some still have old-fashioned laptops. some of the libraries are not in uses and there are those semi-luddites who cling precariously to reading books, as a way of clinging to the past, but that is a waning and already disappeared culture.
How will the digital world of ubiquitous computing affect our experience of reading? For centuries, reading has played an important role in the development of civilization. Marshall McLuhan has argued that since Gutenberg, we have been "typographic man", defined by our connection to printing technology. in a digital age, will we shift to a civilization that's more visual and oral, and less textual? Will reading become participation in holographic virtual realities akin to the holodeck in Star Trek?
Something About Books And The Internet
Say you browse a used book store and decide to buy a copy of a book you have heard about and haven't gotten to reading. After you start reading the book, you decide to learn more about the author.. You Google his name and notice that Wikipedia has an article detailing his writing and his life, as well as external links to his works, much of which is available free on-line. the page links to interviews, essays, the author's Blog, and his homepage. this set of links offers an enormous accretion of information. a few hears ago, if you picked up a book-uless the author had been around long enough to appear in the Encyclopedia of World Literature or other standard reference works-little biographical or critical information was available,. Now, readers can quickly find and abundance of information online" some of it social and deriving from fans, some of it from the publisher, and some of it from authors savvy at self-promotion.
Some fans create special links and at time create a page that is divided into two sections: the first part defines the novel's technical terms, and the second provides a chapter-by-chapter guide to your selected book. This guide is especially useful it is dense with technical terms relating to the singularity, and someone unfamiliar with the recent memes in science fiction might feel overwhelmed. Many of the guide's terms are recent enough that they do not appear in printed reference works. ... A reader can click on the links as he or she is reading the novels and travel to explanatory or related websisites. tis process makes reading the books more like traversing living documents that interconnect with thousands of other pages. The annotating fans-like the creators of Wikipedia-have created participatory interconnected books. These have come to be commonly known as E-books.
Web Standards for E-Books
According to Joe Clark, "The Internet did not replace television, which did not replace cinema, which did not replace books. E-books aren't going to replace books either. E-books are books, merely with a different form. The electronic book is the latest example of how HTML continues to wi out over competing, often non-standardized, formats. E-books aren't websites, but E-books re distributed electronically. Now the dominant E-book format is XHTML. Web standards take on a new flavor when rendering literature on the screen, and classic assumptions about typography (or "formatting" have to be adjusted). It's for any text distributed online.
"Technology predictions can come back and haunt you," writes Clark. "but this one I'm sure about: The fate of non-HTML formats has been sealed by HTML5 and the iPad. People are finally noticing what was staring them in the face all along - HTML is great for expressing words. The Web is mostly about expressing words, and HTML works well for it. The same holds true for electronic books'
- E-books are usually not "websites." you can post your book copy as web pages, but E-book as a logical entity is not a website.
- ePub, the International E-book standard, is HTML (XHTML 1.1 with minor exlusions. Two other formats - certain kinds of "true" XML and DTBook - have equal status in ePub; most developers use XHTML.
- Every reader under the sun except the Amazon Kindle can display ePub electronic books. (A kindle can also convert HTML to displayable format, presumably AZW
Every article on electronic books must ritually address the concept of book and the relation of from to book. In this case, I will acknowledge the remarks of Internet pioneer, Jaron Lanier, who warns in his book "You Are Not A gadget", that early software decisions can dramatically constrain what later becomes possible. Others have stated the same thing-the type designers at LettError complained a decade ago about how software tools constrain ideas.
Clark further informs us thusly:
I am articulating an HTML-triumphalist view of E-book production. By backing what I feel is obviously the right horse, I am contributing to the strangulation of new or uninvented form of the book. Advocacy of one digital format is always a process of eugenics; other formats will never be born or will die prematurely. I'm doing that right now by downplaying the importance of ML and DTBook variants of ePub. I am happy to contribute to the death of "vooks" and other multimedia websites masquerading as books. (I do not want a rectangle of video yammering at me while I am trying to read.) They're like animated popunder ads in that no actual "user" wants them, but somebody with an agenda does. ... For other forms of books, advocating strict HTML markup will cause as-yet-unknowable harm. I nonetheless maintain that typical works of fiction, and many works of nonfiction, can be expressed very well indeed on HTML E-books. to attain this degree of expression, we have to rid ourselves of print conventions that do not work in electronic media.
another way of saying this is that books should be as bookish as possible under the circumstances. Printed books need to take advantage of everything print has to offer (resolution, tactility, portability, collectibility), while electronic books must do likewise for their own form (economy, copyability, reflow, searching, indexing, and interlinking).
Using Memes And trends To Search The Internet
William Gibson has recently pointed out that a "Google aura" or "Cloud" surrounds books now, as readers increasingly search Google and Wikipedia while reading. gibson has suggested that everyone creates his or her own novel while reading: tunneling through the text and choosing which terms, memes, and trends to search for over the Internet. Node recently linked to a William Gibson blog in which he posted a playlist of music. This is an intriguing idea because writers can post playlists that they feel would be an ideal accompaniment for their writing. These types of postings are merely one aspect of the 'cloud' formation that surrounds books.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of commercially available E-books from legacy publishing houses were converted to "electronic format" by scanning printed books and turning the resulting QCR book copy into text files. Copy errors are so rampant that E-books are the first category of book in human history that could actually be returned as defective. This in turn led to the equally rampant mythology that E-books are all about "formatting."
so that, scholars have long produced annotated versions of books. ... Annotations date back-at least- to the library of Alexandria,which employed scholars whose role was to annotate and provide marginalia to ancient literature, and to medieval scholastics who annotated the Bible and the Church Fathers. Computers digitized books will make it immeasurably easier for talented amateurs to annotate books or share them with others. This change will turn out to be a mixed blessing. Fan created annotated books will have to be approached with the type of skepticism that we currently approach-or should approach-blogs and web sites. At their best, amateur annotations and marginilia have a promising future with the rise of Web 2.0 and social media, allowing readers to participate more deeply literature, but they rarely, if ever, go through the vetting process and face the unfortunate possibility of being entirely false.
Fan and reader participation is ultimately a good thing because it causes readers to develop a deeper, more active engagement intoliterature. A person can understand a book in a more sophisticated way if they can add annotations that interpret and describe the texy. Strong readers have a tendency to connect different books, and idea within the same book, rather passively absorb information. Publishers and many readers are resistant to technological to books, which have been a useful technology for centuries. However, books are slowly shifting from solitary items to networks. The next major step, which is slowly occurring as Google Books and more publishers digitize their wares, is to get books online and for the readers to start interacting with them Books will resemble living webpages with links, tags, and annotations.
E-Readers vs. Old Fashioned Books
Mr. Green writes that, " A relatively new phenomenon is the E-reader, be it Kindle, iPad, or a number of other new competitors coming into the marketplace. when you think about it, these devices would seem to be more environmentally friendly than your typical paper and cardboard book, even a paperback. Should we be buying our loved-ones e-readers or traditional books at any other time we want to.
There is a certain tactile value to "real" books, just feeling the paper, turning the pages. This is missing when using an e-reader. but on the surface, the e0reader, would seem to be much more green. E-reader vs. Paper Book is a provocative question, one that could just as easily have been "do you prefer flying cars of conventional road going cars?" ... a few short years ago. The key to the answer is that basic tenet of sustainability, life cycle analysis. We must consider not only the tress needed to make paper versus the manufacturing of electronic products, but the shipping costs, fuel and ultimately the energy needed to recycle these materials at the end of the their days. Not to mention, what ultimately happens to E-waste? Where do the non-recycle remains end up?"
Mr. Green's conclusion - as well as a recent New York Times piece on the same subject (which will be added below), was that unless your a fast and furious reader, the energy required to manufacture and then dispose of an e-reader is probably greater than what's needed to make a traditional book. If you're reading 40 or more books per year only your e-reader, that would be the right choice. But if you use it occasionally, probably better to stick to a "regular book". The conclusion is reinforced by a study referenced on the website of TerrePass, a carbon offset business. The New York times article also explored this subject, with a slightly different conclusion, which will be cited below in its entirety.
Green continues: "Using similar data, an outfit call Clantech did a study which looked a the question sort of in reverse, saying if you were to read three books a month over four years, the e-reader would significantly outperform conventional paper books in carbon emitted. Clearly, like many green subjects, ours is a young industry, and as such, definitive answers are hard to come by. At least, subject to interpretation. Either way, I hope that today's generation will read more and watch less, be it through paper or electronic means."
Here's the best answer, though: go to the public library next time you are downtown. Borrow three or four books, finnish them all, then return them next time you're near the library. This is truly the most sustainable way to read: the goo old fashioned public library At the sierra Club Green Home, we preach reduce "reduce, reuse, and recycle" and library books can be read by dozens of people over their lifetime. And once they are finally too dog-eared and beaten up to grace the library shelves, they can be easily recycled, since they are generally all paper (even the leather on deluxe bound editions can be recycled).
Thus concludes green his treatise on the issues of Traditional Printed Books versus E-boos. It is important to note that after he posted this article, a gaggle of commentators took it upon themselves to voice their understanding about the subject discussed above. I will use their comments at the end of this article,. For now, I look at various inputs concerning the subject of Internet E-books and the regular traditionally printed books, and what the pundits have to say about this subject which is the topic of this Hub.
E-Trash Stemming The Tide Of global Trade Of HighTech Toxic Waste
According to Gilles van Kote: "A strange ceremony too place earlier this summer on the fourth floor of a small office building in the center of Seattle, this famously forward looking city in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Important executives from the South Korean consumer electronics group LG had travelled there to sign an agreement with the Basel Action Network(BAN), and American NGO that opposes the international trade of toxic waste, especially waste derived from computer and electronic product, WEEE (Waster Electrical and Electronic Equipment).
BAN's primary concern is the export of toxic waste from industrial countries to Asia or Africa, where the products are treated - or often just burnt - with little regard for the environmental or health risks involved. The United States has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to this kind of toxic trading. It is the world's top producer and exporter of electronic waste and it has never ratified the 1989 Convention of Basel, which regulates the "trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste and their disposal." BAN estimates that between 50 and 100 WEEE containers travel everyday - quite legally - fro the United States to Hong Kong, Asia's principal port of entry.
The European Union, in contrast, decided in 1997 to forbid the export of dangerous waste to countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation andDevelopment )ECD), a wealthy nations club. ...The certified recycling companies that participate in the "e-Stewards" program commit themselves not too export to foreign countries the waster that has been entrusted in their care. Instead, they agree to treat it themselves, using techniques that respect both the environment and take into account health risks.
Yet, Europe is not as virtuous as it seems. WEEE materials are trafficked illegally, with some exporters using fake declarations. According to Puckett, one common practice is to ship electronic waste under the guise that the machines are 'second had goods and can then be resold. In reality, the products are just pure garbage destined for the dump. The companies just want to get rid of WEEE," the BAN head intoned.
If books evolve into a network, rather than remain isolated objects, the transition will help the discovery process. Fans could do a number of things to annotate the book. They could provide hyperlinks to other books by the collection's authors. They could link to other works of that may not be mentioned in the book's introduction, but could help readers gain an historical understanding of the genre. They could link to reference books discussing that particular book, or famous and popular movies that involve the books' themes or critical articles discussing the genre. Networked books will help the long tail of books; obscure and forgotten books could be rediscovered when readers click on hyperlinks cultivated by ardent fans and critics.
Are E-Readers Greener Than Books?
Joe Hutsko informs us: "A new study analyzing the Amazon Kindle electronic book reader's impact on the environment suggests that, on average, the carbon emitted over the life of the device is offset after the first year or use. Kindle "Its's not just buying e-books that matters," said the report's author, Emma Ritch. The key is they displace the purchase of 22.5 physical books." Ms. Ritch said
"The new study finds that e-readers could have a major a major impact on improving the sustainability and environmental impact on the publishing industry,one of the world's most polluting sectors," a statement at the Cleantech's Web site states. . "In 2008, the U.S. book and newspaper industries combined resulted in the harvest in of 125 million trees, not to mention wastewater that was produced or its massive carbon print."
The report asserts that printed books have the highest per-unit carbon footprint - which includes its raw materials, paper production, printing, shipping, and disposal - in the publishing sector. "In the case of a book bought at a bookstore," Ms. Ritch said, Cleantech's measurement "takes into account the fossil fuels necessary to deliver to the bookstore and the fact that 25-36 percent of those books are then returned to the publisher, burning more fossil fuels." After that, Ms. Ritch said, there are three common next steps: "The publisher then incinerates, throws away or recycles them,"
The association of American Publishers reported sales of e-books were up 154.8 per cent by the end of 2009, while overall book sales were down 4.1 percent; 2008 e-books sales totaled $112 million, and some analysts predict that sales may reach $400 million in 2012. Of course, none of this means that e-readers are without environmental impact. Consumer electronics, after all, are not notorious for containing a variety of toxic materials among their circuitry. Valerie Motis, a Sony spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message that the company's e-reader products are free of toxic material , including polyvinyl chloride,or PVC. but Casey Harrell, of Greenpeace, which monitors the environmental impact of consumer electronics, said e-readers remain something of an unknown vaiable. In terms of Kindle or other similar e-book gadgets, I don' know what chemicals are in or out," Harrell said. "Companies will what to brag about their eco-credentials, so if you don't see any mention, they've probably not been eliminated."
According to Sarah Rotman Epps, a media analyst wit Forrester Research in Cambridge Mass., which supplied some of the data for the report, first quarter e-book sales in 2009 accounted for a scant 1.6 percent, or $113 million in revenue, in the $24.3 billion publishing industry. "Right now, e-books are having effectively no positive impact on the environment," she said, nor will they "unless publishers print fewer books in anticipation of e-book sales."
Mr. Harrell suggested another option for those concerned about the environmental footprint of books: "There' always a library," he said'
E-Books Are Damaging Society
Jonathan Franzen has launched a passionate defense of the printed book, warning that our desire of r the instant gratification of e-books is damaging for society. According to an article written on this matter by Anita Singh, "The author of "Freedom and The Corrections", regarded as one o America's greatest living novelist, Jonathan Franzen, he said that consumers had been conned into thinking that they need the latest technology.
"The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So, its's pretty good technology. And what's more, it will work great 10 years from now. so, no wonder the capitalists hate it. It's a bad business model," said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the Internet when he is writing. [Somehow I have this sneaky feeling that he is a Luddite].
"I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence as always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn't change.
"Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable." I don't have a crystal ball.
"But I do fear that it's going to be very hard to make the world work if there's not permanence like that . That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government." Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Columbia, Franzen argued that e-books, such as Amazon's Kindle, can never have the magic of the printed page. He said" "The Great Gatsby was last updated in 1924. You don't need it to be refreshed, do you?
"Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I'm handling a specific object in a a specific time and place. the fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing - that's reassuring.
"Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. they were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it's just not permanent enough."
Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in 50 years time to find out if books have become obsolete.
"I'm amused by how intent people are on making human beings immortal or at least extremely long-lived," he joked.
"One of the consolations of dying is that [you think, 'Well, that won't have to be my problem'. Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if had any more than 80 years of change, I don't see how you could stand it psychologically."
The 52-year-old became a literary superstar with 'The Correction...', published in 2001, which sold close to three million copies. His fans include Barack Obama, who was so keen to read Freedom that he requested an advanced copy.
Franzen said: "One of the reasons I love Barack Obama as much as I do is that we finally have a real reader in the White House. It's absolutely amazing. There's one of us running the US. [Although] when I heard he was reading Freedom, I thought, "Why are we reading a novel" There are important things to be doing!" Franzen stated that "I think the combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control. If you go to Europe, politicians don't matter. The people making the decisions in Europe are bankers. "The technicians of finance are making the decisions there. It has very little to do with democracy or the will of the peoole. And we are hostage to that because we like our iPhones. His critic have pointed out to the absence of religion in Franzen's novels and he explained: "I don't believe in a God who's sitting in some undisclosed location at a switchboard receiving and answering prayers. to be honest, I'm thinking much more about science than about religion when I'm writing. to me. art itself is a religion."
The last part of Franzen is incoherent and I just cited it for posterity, but does not have much to do with books. There are some of his critics who think that he spoke so that he could get his speaker'[s fees, and some observe that he is worried that e-books will cut into his paycheck; but then, there are those who maintain that they love the smell of a real book when they are reading it; others make a more pointed observation that in the age of e-mails, IM's, tweets, Facebook, etc, today's kids and later generations won't have this opportunity, as one was saying, of saving his letter in a shoe box whilst he was in college, that these kids and later generation, just to repeat, won't have this opportunity to revisit their youthful selves: it'll have all been deleted. This was at least what Franzen was talking about, the non-guaranteed permanency is often lost with the coming of e-books. One can look at the Tweeter, Facebook and other social media, nothing is permanent, as it is instantly new, every time. What had gone on before, even if you can retrieve it, there is no such time since one is constantly badgered to add, read, or see something new, now and in this instance and instant.
There are those who believe that books on't go anywhere, although they might sell less, they will remain there as vinyl(LPs) did with the coming of 8 track tapes, CDs and dwonloads. and these book lovers maintain that they still love books, and their smell in the library of bookstores, and they cannot forego they want to own a book physically and not digitally only. some think that some books remain classics and other see some books becoming oboslete. some of those who respond to the type of assertion that Franzen make say that permanence is not just something that just happens on its own. The majority of books published fall into obscurity, mouldering in libraries(I think in this case because less and less people visit libraries), or in used book shops, or trash heaps, and others state that some of these books deserve their fate.
There are those who say that electronic books have not been around long enough, but feel that when it comes to preserving the past, modern readers should not limit themselves to one format, and they feel and think that books are wonderful in general, whether they come on paper or digitally. Franzen started a good defense for printed books in the cited piece above, but his critics seem to be able to articulate his premise much more e better and in a balanced way. Like I injected somewhere in his article, I think he is is a Luddite, and it disables him to see both points of view, that the digital and the printed books are an that one ins the extension and morphing of one into another, but still remain books, because they can both still be read and are written in a book format.
The End Of The Chirographic Culture?
America’s obsession with digital tablets is driving a boon in e-book reading, a new survey shows, a trend that is dampening the appeal of printed books and shaking the centuries-old publishing business.
The share of Americans who read e-books grew to 23 percent from 16 percent over the past year while the number of adults who read printed books fell to 67 percent from 72 percent, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The swift and dramatic shift in reading habits was brought on by the rising popularity of tablets and e-reader devices, which are now owned by one-third of the U.S. population 16 and older, the survey showed.
We are informed by Jason Merkoski that:
"There are two issues about secrecy here: social responsibility and intellectual property. As far as social responsibility goes, let me just say this: These companies have entire buildings filled with lawyers. They aren’t there to come up with new lawyer jokes. They are there, in part, to keep people like me from even answering this question. That said, I think if people were given a chance to spend a day looking inside Amazon or Apple’s veil of secrecy, most of them would be fascinated — although some might boycott.
"There are three dimensions of trust here. Do I trust retailers not to censor books, do I trust them with my personal data, and do I trust them to curate great books for me to read? Frankly, I don’t trust the executives at any e-book retailer when it comes to censorship. I know many of them. If push came to shove, I think most of these execs would rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that would avoid bad press. These are major retailers, not your quirky corner bookstores. They’re manned by former management consultants in clean shirts and pressed Dockers, not eccentric book-lovers with beards and cats.
"[Also], I do trust them with my identity. These companies are obsessed with safeguarding privacy. The worst they’re going to do is show me more ads. [And], When it comes to book recommendations, retailers have the literary sensibilities of a spreadsheet — they’ll just recommend the most popular books to me, or books that other people also bought, but they know nothing of the soul and sparkle of a great book. I hope this changes over time. [That is Why] I’m a sentimentalist. I’ve got many more books than friends, and I think I always will. Some are such a part of my life that I can’t get rid of them.
"Reading is great, but I don’t know whether you need paper and ink for it. You’re going to get so much more from e-books because they bring your friends and family into the margins of your reading experience. They will be literally on the same page with you. We can lament the older experience of reading, because that’s what we were raised with. But there’s nothing to be afraid of. Technology has a way of shifting, and we’re adaptable. That’s our genius: we do adapt.
"[Therefore]... in 20 years, the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs. You’ll still be able to find them in artsy hipster stores, but that’s about it. So the great advantage of e-books is also their curse; e-books will be the only game in town if you want to read a book. It’s sobering, and a bit sad. That said, e-books can do what print books can’t. They’ll allow you to fit an entire library into the space of one book. They’ll allow you to search for anything in an instant, save your thoughts forever, share them with the world, and connect with other readers right there, inside the book. The book of the future will live and breathe.
I found a book at my grandmother’s house that was inscribed by my great-grandfather. I learned what his original last name was — before he changed it. That was an interesting link to my past. We’re going to lose that sort of trace of ourselves if we go all digital. Giving children an e-book at this point might not be that much better than plunking them down in front of a TV, especially if they’re reading the e-book on a multifunction device with instant messages, games and other distractions. Better they should be outside and engaged with the world."
I found this article written by Lee Rainie and Maeve Duggan very interesting and updating the what the Hub above has been trying to synthesize. I will cull from their article, and post it below:
E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines
The population of e-book readers is growing. In the past year, the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%. At the same time, the number of those who read printed books in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population ages 16 and older to 67%.
Overall, the number of book readers in late 2012 was 75% of the population ages 16 and older, a small and statistically insignificant decline from 78% in late 2011.
The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices. In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.
Pulp Fiction: The Kindle Debate
On this topic, David Streitfeld writes"
"My article in The New York Times on Monday citing high levels of dissatisfaction with Amazon’s new tablet generated a torrential response, much of it from people who said they loved their Kindle Fires. The wilder commentators suggested that the whole article somehow came from Apple, which, in their view, was trying to get people to hock grandma’s jewels to buy $500 iPads. None of those conspiracy theorists explained why so many original users of the Fire put mixed to negative reviews on Amazon’s own site.
The uproar underlined yet again how people have deep-seated but contradictory feelings about their devices. In one sense, they demand a lot; in another, they are very forgiving. No one would put up with a new car that did not drive well, but people expect technology to be balky, at least in the beginning. One commentator, Victor from Texas, captured this charity in one sentence: “Though I am not thrilled with this initial version of Fire, I have no intention of returning it since it works well for me.”
It is still early days for the Fire. Many were doubtless sold as Christmas gifts, so the true verdict from the masses won’t come for a few weeks. But in the meantime here is another professional evaluation, from someone who has probably used the Kindle more than anyone who does not work for Amazon. Peter Meyers is a digital book consultant who is writing “Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience” (free download of the first three chapters here). He broke off from that effort last month to write “Kindle Fire: The Missing Manual,” to be published in January as a print volume and an e-book from O’Reilly Media. Mr. Meyers could be accused of bias; if the Fire is a tremendous failure, the market for his manual would be negligible. But he was not paid by Amazon to write it, and the retailer had no control over its contents. Amazon did not even give him a Fire.
Mr. Meyers’s verdict, in an e-mail to me:
“Apple would have never shipped a device like the Fire. It’s got way too many rough edges (sluggish touchscreen, magazine apps that don’t really fit the smaller screen, an easy-to-hit power button). And even little things like how the power cord jiggles when plugged in wouldn’t have made it past the demo room in Cupertino. But the Fire’s not made for Apple’s customers — or to win thumbs up from usability critics. It’s for the millions of people who: a) don’t have $500-plus to spend on an iPad and b) really want to be part of the touchscreen revolution that’s changing how we control devices.
“Think about all the stuff a non-nitpicky, non-iPad veteran can do with the Fire: email, good-enough web browsing, Twitter, Facebook, watch movies and TV, read e-books, and play dozens of the most popular app games (Angry Birds, Words With Friends). For $200, is that enough to satisfy millions — maybe even Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos’ predicted ‘many millions’? I think for sure the answer’s ‘yes.’ Will Amazon fix the bugs, polish the chassis, and improve this thing, same as it did with the original Kindle? Of course.”
Although the press tends to present the iPad as the only alternative to the Fire, there is of course Barnes & Noble’s $250 Nook Tablet. Mr. Meyers said he used it but had not tested it extensively. “I think the Nook Tablet is less buggy and more polished than the Fire, thanks to B&N’s experience with the Color Nook,” he wrote in the e-mail. “But longer term I just think Amazon has so much more and broader and better integrated content to offer that I’d buy a Fire now rather than go with a Nook.”
And yet. Once his manual is finished, Mr. Meyers does not see much of a future for his own Kindle Fire. “Mine’s going back in the box as soon as I’m done,” he wrote. “The iPad 2 is years ahead of it and lets me consume and create with no friction.”
In the article above, and the cited material updating the use of e-books as oppose to traditional printed group,has been viewed and talked about by just as many authors as i have cited, and one thing is clear- Increased Internet connectivity has but totally dislocated cognition that is brought about by reading a printed book. Some think e-books are the best and man will adapt-others see the death and elimination of the book a very serious problem, which has us seeing the coming of a new generation of people who read less, and are conditioned by the different social media and e-books to adapt to the demands and the designs of the Internet(Web). One More thing about the incoming new books called the Chromebooks is discussed below by Claire Cain Miller.
E-book reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines
The population of e-book readers is growing. In the past year, the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%. At the same time, the number of those who read printed books in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population ages 16 and older to 67%.
Overall, the number of book readers in late 2012 was 75% of the population ages 16 and older, a small and statistically insignificant decline from 78% in late 2011.
The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices. In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.
This move toward e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year. Moreover, awareness of e-book lending by libraries is growing. The share of those in the overall population who are aware that libraries offer e-books has jumped from 24% late last year to 31% now.
These latest figures come from a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project which was conducted on October 15-November 10, 2012 among 2,252 Americans ages 16 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
Who reads e-books
In the book-reading population, those most likely to read e-books include those with college or graduate degrees, those who live in households earning more than $75,000, and those whose ages fall between 30 and 49.
The tables below, which show increases among various demographic groups, are based on those who say they had read a book in the past 12 months, not the full population of those ages 16 and older.
Who read books in the past 12 months
In the new Pew Internet survey 75% of Americans ages 16 and older said they had read a book in any platform in the previous 12 months. That is not statistically significantly different from the 78% who in late 2011 said in a survey they had read a book in the previous 12 months. Of them:
- 89% of the book readers said they had read a printed book. This translates into 67% of all those ages 16 and older.
- 30% of the book readers said they had read an e-book. This translates into 23% of all those ages 16 and older.
- 17% of the book readers said they had listened to an audio book. This translates into 13% of all those ages 16 and older.
All told, those book readers consumed a mean (average) of 15 books in the previous 12 months and a median (midpoint) of 6 books — in other words, half had read fewer than six and half had read more than six. That breaks down as follows:
- 7% of Americans ages 16 and older read one book in the previous 12 months
- 14% had read 2-3 books in that time block
- 12% had read 4-5 books in that time block
- 15% had read 6-10 books in that time block
- 13% had read 11-20 books in that time block
- 14% had read 21 or more books in that time block
E-book borrowing from libraries
This move toward e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year.
Beyond that, there is growing public awareness that the vast majority of public libraries now lend e-books. In the entire population of those ages 16 and older, the number who are aware that libraries offer e-book loans increased from 24% last year to 31% now. At the same time, there has been a drop in the number of people who do not know whether their local library has an e-book borrowing program. Now, 57% say they don’t know if their library offers e-books. Last year, 63% of those ages 16 and above did not know if their library offered e-books for borrowing.
- The way we defined recent library users changed between 2011 and 2012. In 2011, recent library users were those who had used a public library for at least one of eight activities in the previous twelve months. In 2012, we defined recent library users as those who had done one of the following things in the previous twelve months: visited a public library in person, gone on a public library website, or used a cell phone, e-reader or tablet to visit a public library website or access public library resources.
- The way we identified e-book borrowers has changed. In 2011, our question was addressed to those who had read e-books and the language was: In the past 12 months, have you used a public library to borrow or download an e-book?” This year the question was asked of all those who had used their library’s website in the past 12 months and the question language was: “In the past 12 months, have you used a public library website to borrow or download an e-book?”
- In 2011, this question was asked of those who do not read e-books or those who read e-books but do not borrow them from the library. The figure cited here for 2011 is converted to all those ages 16 and older. In the recent survey it was asked of all adults.
- In 2011, this question was asked of those who do not read e-books or those who read e-books but do not borrow them from the library. The figure cited here for 2011 is converted to all those ages 16 and older. In the recent survey it was asked of all adults.
Short notes on Chromebooks
"When a Google engineer gave top executives computers running the company’s new Chrome operating system, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, tried to hold on to his computer running an older version.
“I reached to take the old one, and he reaches to grab it,” recalled Linus Upson, the vice president for engineering in charge of Chrome. “Then he realizes, ‘I don’t need it.’ ”
That is because Chrome stores everything that people have on their computers — like documents, photos and e-mail — online, or in tech parlance, in the cloud. In Google’s vision of a world where all computers run on its Chrome OS, anyone can walk up to any computer with an Internet connection and gain access to all their information.
If Mr. Brin was momentarily confused, it is no wonder that Google users and analysts are struggling to wrap their heads around what Google is trying to do with Chrome.
It is all the more confusing because Google already has a Web browser named Chrome. And Google already has an operating system, called Android.
Google says it will become clearer by the end of the year, when the company will introduce to the public a lightweight netbook computer that runs Chrome. Though Google declined to give details of the device, it is expected to be manufactured by another company and branded by Google, similar to the way Google released its Nexus phone, which runs on Android.
Google has high hopes for Chrome, and as the company weathers criticism for relying too much on search advertising for revenue, its executives have been describing Chrome as one of Google’s new businesses with huge potential.
With Chrome OS, Google is stepping once again into the territory of its arch-rivals,Microsoft and Apple, both of which make operating systems as well as widely used desktop software like Microsoft Office and Apple iPhoto and iTunes.
That software would not work on Chrome computers. Instead, Chrome users would use Google’s Web-based products, like Docs, Gmail and Picasa for word processing, e-mail and photos, or software from other companies, like Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365. Google also plans to open a Chrome app store for software developers to dream up other Chrome tools.
The Chrome browser, which is installed on 8 percent of all PCs, shares a name because the operating system is, essentially, the same thing as the browser. “When people look at Chrome OS, they’re going to be like, ‘It’s just a browser, there’s nothing exciting here,’ ” Mr. Upson said. “Exactly. It’s just a browser, there’s nothing exciting here — that’s the point.”
Computers running Chrome OS will start in seconds, not minutes, and then users will see a browser through which applications and data can be used.
Yet while Google imagines a Web-based future, analysts wonder whether Chrome’s time has passed — before Google netbooks even hit the market.
When Google first talked about Chrome last year, netbooks — small, low-cost laptops with keyboards — were all the rage. But since then, smartphones and tablets — slate PCs with touch screens, like the iPad — have crushed that market.
“When Google made their decision early on with the Chrome OS project, Android was in its infancy and the tablet market didn’t really exist,” said Ray Valdes, a research vice president at Gartner who studies Internet platforms. “Now things have changed, and I think Google is likely recalibrating its strategy and product mix to take that into account.”
Google’s hugely successful Android operating system for mobile phones and tablets adds a level to the confusion. Chrome and Android are built by separate Google teams and the company says there is no conflict between the two. But its executives acknowledge they are not entirely sure how the two will coexist.
“We don’t want to call the question and say this one does one thing, this one does another,” said Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive. “So far the model seems to be the Android solution is particularly optimized for things that involve touch in some form and Chrome OS appears to be for keyboard-based solutions.”
But Mr. Upson said that Chrome OS would be a computing platform stretching to hand-held devices, tablets and TVs. “We are starting with laptops and we will expand in both directions,” he said.
“Google hasn’t told a great story about how Chrome and Android live relative to each other,” said Michael Gartenberg, a Gartner research director studying consumer applications. “It’s incumbent upon Google to start telling a story that makes sense. It gets to the point of confusion that you have a lot of folks saying, ‘What’s Steve Job’s phone number again?’ ”
It’s been nearly three years since Google introduced Chromebooks — laptops that are always connected to the Internet and store everything online. And it’s been a year and a half since Intel introduced the 'ultrabook' category — thin, lightweight notebooks that cost $800 or more. But neither of these new laptop categories has given a jolt to the flatlining PC industry, because many people are buying tablets instead. Is there hope?
Gartner, the research firm, suggested that there’s a chance. In a research report published Monday, Gartner said it believed that consumers would become increasingly attracted to devices like the Chromebook and other thin and lightweight notebooks. Part of the newfound interest in these notebooks, Gartner said, will come as more of these devices include Intel’s new processors, called Bay Trail and Haswell, which raise performance and battery life.
Gartner estimates that shipments of these notebooks, which it calls “ultramobiles,” will grow to roughly 20.3 million this year, up from 9.8 million last year. Still, Gartner predicted that the overall PC market, including ultramobiles, would probably shrink this year. It estimates that worldwide, manufacturers will ship 305 million PCs, down 10.6 percent from last year.
In another sign of how grim things are looking for the PC, The Korea Times reported Monday that officials of Samsung Electronics, the South Korean manufacturer that is the biggest phone maker in the world, said the company would because demand was low and the devices were unprofitable, and would instead focus on tablets and laptops. On Tuesday, however, the company said the report was “groundless.”
There will be more updates that will be added to the changing world of print and the emergence of e-books, and what it all means along with the new gizmos , like "Kindle", for instance, which have some apparent and realistic affects on the readers/users of these new mediums which are replacing the printed/published books. What is going to happen two decades from now, it seems like the e-book is here to stay- There are still those that are holding on to printed books, like those who hung on to their vinyl when the 8 track tapes/CD made their appearance in the music and other scenes using this new technologies.
Yet another source of puzzlement: even though Google has been promoting both Chrome and Android as new big businesses, they are free and open-source, meaning that hardware manufacturers don’t have to pay Google to use them on devices, and software developers don’t have to pay to use them to build their own operating systems or browsers.
That actually makes perfect sense, said Sundar Pichai, vice president for product management with Chrome, because Google makes almost all its revenue from things people do on browsers.
“These are enablers — platforms on which people use Google services,” Mr. Pichai said. “Both offer benefits in terms of how people can use services easily and increase usage, and that gives them a better experience and over all generates more revenue for us.”
Though some people might worry about storing their private information on Google’s servers instead of their own computers, Google says Chrome is safer because security updates happen automatically and if people lose their computers, their data is inaccessible once they reset their passwords.
Mr. Upson says that 60 percent of businesses could immediately replace their Windows machines with computers running Chrome OS. He also says he hopes it will put corporate systems administrators out of work because software updates will be made automatically over the Web. But the vast majority of businesses still use desktop Microsoft Office products and cannot imagine moving entirely to Web-based software or storing sensitive documents online — at least not yet.
Even if Google missed the netbook craze, it may in fact be ahead of its time in imagining a Web-based future, Mr. Gartenberg said. “Android, where everything is very application-dependent, is a response to the things that are here today,” he said. “Chrome is preparing for a future when everything can be delivered through the Web.”
Walter Ong On Orality, Chirography and Literacy
Most Cultures are Oral
- Ong reviews his own research and the work of others on the nature of consciousness in cultures which are primarily or entirely oral. Oral cultures constitute the vast majority of those which have existed in history and currently. Most cultures do not even have a writing system, much less a literature. "Of the some 3000 languages spoken that exist today only some 78 have a literature." (p.7)
- Even the cultures which have a literature are still frequently oral in their communication and outlook on communication, frequently mistrusting writing. (pp.96-97)
- The role of memory and public speaking is much more important in oral cultures than chirographic (writing) ones.
- The classical Greeks are a central case that Ong turns to frequently, as they were an oral culture that underwent the transition to literature in the formative period of Western philosophy. They have also been studied extensively by scholars of orality.
Ong is primarily concerned with oral cultures and their transition to chirographic cultures. He has less interest in the subsequent transitions in chirographic cultures.
The Transition from Oral to Chirographic/Print Consciousness
- When a culture begins the transition into using written literature, writing is usually viewed with great suspicion and reprobation. Plato, for example, criticised writing as leading to poor memories and other failings in students dependent on it. Curiously, the criticisms of writing made in oral cultures are echoed in the criticisms leveled at the use of printing in the sixteenth century and computers in the present day. Ong sees this as part of an overall pattern in adopting new information technologies.
- Ong points out that writing is an artificial activity, but this is praise and not condemnation. Information technologies are not mere external aids but internal transformations of consciousness for the better. Writing heightens and uplifts consciousness in Ong's view. "Alienation from a natural milieu can be good for us and indeed is in many ways essential for full human life. To live and to understand fully, we need not only proximity but also distance." (p.82)
- Text is very different from spoken discourse. Spoken utterance is always conducting in a specific context of an actual audience and setting, whereas the writer must mentally fictionalize the audience and setting their work is addressed to. Writing developed various psychodynamic techniques over time to adjust for these facts (the techniques of the dialogue, the frame story, and other conventions of fiction are examples).
- Writing leads to special dialects of languages, termed by Haugen "grapholects." (p. 107) Grapholects have access to resources which normal spoken dialects do not, much larger vocabularies recorded in dictionaries and enormous bodies of recorded literature, for example. English is a grapholect with more than a million words, contrasted to a normal spoken language of a few thousand words.
- Orality is tenacious, in that it still lies at the root of much of our thinking. We still give oral presentations, for example. Chirographic cultures are by no means entirely chirographic.
Printing accentuates and speeds up the trends of literary culture. It leads even more to the transition of communication from an aural activity to a visual activity based on spatial relationships.
The Various Writing Spaces: Manuscripts, Typographic, Post-Typographic
- Print technology leads to many additional advances in writing spaces: spatial techniques for organizing words. The alphabetic index (an extension of the list, which was a first feature of writing) becomes a standard component of the book. The book itself is an even more tangibly thing-like thing than a manuscript, increasing the distance from utterances. Other protocols such as title pages and tables of contents are features of books and not manuscripts.
- Print has a much stronger sense of closure than handwriting. The manufacturing process necessitated the concept of a "final" version of text, with everything that evolves out of that concept, namely literary criticism of canonical versions of texts.
- The electronic world of post-typography expands things greatly, to the extent that Ong hesitates to get into the topic very far. Use of computers in composing texts is rapidly replacing the use of type-setting. The use of the many new aural electronic technologies (telephone, radio, sound recordings, etc.) brings on what Ong terms a "second orality". (p.136) This is a period in which orality once again becomes common, but in a form greatly hobbled by the inherited sense of closure found in print. Ong comments on how modern presidential debates are bland and tame compared to the agonistic struggles of the Lincoln/Douglas debates of 1858, when orality was much stronger in American culture.
- Implications for the Study of Communication
- Ong concludes with some comments about how the new scholarship in orality has widespread implications for various disciplines. Some of the areas that he feels can fruitfully make use of the findings of orality research are literary history, Structuralism, Deconstructionism, Speech-Act Theory, social sciences, and philosophy.
- Ong observes that consciousness has evolved through human history by means of growth in the interiorization and distancing of the individual from their community. These interiorized stages of consciousness would not have been reached without writing. Ong further comments that the interaction between orality and literacy is home to some of our deepest spiritual notions (the notion of Christ as the logos, and the written bible are mentioned).
- Ong only scratches the surface of how the computer screen is similar and different from the writing surface. The ways in which the writing spaces of the codex changed consciousness are likely to pale in the ways that electronic information technologies will structure and channel people's minds in the present and future. Unlike the printed page, the computer screen is dynamic, yet still for the most part predetermined.
- Ong explicitly steers clear of the writing activity of today's highest paid literati, computer programmers, saying that computer languages have an artificial grammar (and implying that they are somehow less interesting or significant for this fact). (p.7) The activity of writing computer programs can be seen as the creation of a performative literature, and has enormous realms of subgenre which are not even seen as a form of writing by our current literary tradition. Yet these subgenres make up the performative works which most educated people in today's civilization today wncounter most frequently. The communally authored works of the Microsoft Corporation are read or encountered daily by more people than any other body of literary work in history.
Reading A whole New Way
Reading in a Whole New Way
The following article has been written by Kevin Kelly"
"America was founded on the written word. Its roots spring from documents—the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and, indirectly, the Bible. The country’s success depended on high levels of literacy, freedom of the press, allegiance to the rule of law (found in books) and a common language across a continent. American prosperity and liberty grew out of a culture of reading and writing.
But reading and writing, like all technologies, are dynamic. In ancient times, authors often dictated their books. Dictation sounded like an uninterrupted series of letters, so scribes wrote down the letters in one long continuous string, justastheyoccurinspeech. Text was written without spaces between words until the 11th century. This continuous script made books hard to read, so only a few people were accomplished at reading them aloud to others. Being able to read silently to yourself was considered an amazing talent. Writing was an even rarer skill. In 15th-century Europe only one in 20 adult males could write.
After Gutenberg’s printing press came along around 1440, mass-produced books changed the way people read and wrote. The technology of printing expanded the number of words available (from about 50,000 words in Old English to a million today). More word choices enlarged what could be communicated. More media choices broadened what was written about. Authors did not have to compose scholarly tomes but could “waste” inexpensive books on heart-rending love stories (the romance novel was invented in 1740), or publish memoirs even if they were not kings. People could write tracts to oppose the prevailing consensus, and with cheap printing those unorthodox ideas could gain enough influence to topple a king, or a pope. In time, the power of authors birthed the idea of authority and bred a culture of expertise. Perfection was achieved “by the book.” Laws were compiled into official tomes, contracts were written down and nothing was valid unless put into words. Painting, music, architecture, dance were all important, but the heartbeat of Western culture was the turning pages of a book. By 1910 three-quarters of the towns in America with more than 2,500 residents had a public library. We became a people of the book.
Today some 4.5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on computers, phones, laptops, game consoles, televisions, billboards and tablets. Letters are no longer fixed in black ink on paper, but flitter on a glass surface in a rainbow of colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work—regardless of what we do. We are now people of the screen. And of course, these newly ubiquitous screens have changed how we read and write.
The first screens that overtook culture, several decades ago—the big, fat, warm tubes of television—reduced the time we spent reading to such an extent that it seemed as if reading and writing were over. Educators, intellectuals, politicians and parents worried deeply that the TV generation would be unable to write. But the interconnected cool, thin displays of the second wave of screens launched an epidemic of writing that continues to swell. The amount of time people spend reading has almost tripled since 1980. By 2008 more than a trillion pages were added to the World Wide Web, and that total grows by several billion a day. Each of these pages was written by somebody. Right now ordinary citizens compose 1.5 million blog posts per day. Using their thumbs instead of pens, young people in college or at work around the world collectively write 12 billion quips per day from their phones. More screens continue to swell the volume of reading and writing.
But it is not book reading. Or newspaper reading. It is screen reading. Screens are always on, and, unlike with books we never stop staring at them. This new platform is very visual, and it is gradually merging words with moving images: words zip around, they float over images, serving as footnotes or annotations, linking to other words or images. You might think of this new medium as books we watch, or television we read. Screens are also intensely data-driven. Pixels encourage numeracy and produce rivers of numbers flowing into databases. Visualizing data is a new art, and reading charts a new literacy. Screen culture demands fluency in all kinds of symbols, not just letters.
And it demands more than our eyes. The most physically active we may get while reading a book is to flip the pages or dog-ear a corner. But screens engage our bodies. Touch screens respond to the ceaseless caress of our fingers. Sensors in game consoles such as the Nintendo Wii track our hands and arms. We interact with what we see. Soon enough, screens will follow our eyes to perceive where we gaze. A screen will know what we are paying attention to and for how long. In the futuristic movie Minority Report (2002), the character played by Tom Cruise stands in front of a wraparound screen and hunts through vast archives of information with the gestures of a symphony conductor. Reading becomes almost athletic. Just as it seemed weird five centuries ago to see someone read silently, in the future it will seem weird to read without moving your body.
Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking. A new idea or unfamiliar fact will provoke a reflex to do something: to research the term, to query your screen “friends” for their opinions, to find alternative views, to create a bookmark, to interact with or tweet the thing rather than simply contemplate it. Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time. We review a movie while we watch it, we come up with an obscure fact in the middle of an argument, we read the owner’s manual of a gadget we spy in a store before we purchase it rather than after we get home and discover that it can’t do what we need it to do."
Are Books and the Internet about to merge?
A few months ago I posted a tweet that said: “The distinction between ‘the internet’ & ‘books’ is totally totally arbitrary, and will disappear in 5 years. Start adjusting now.”
The tweet got some negative reaction. But I’m certain this shift will happen, and should happen. (I won’t take bets on the timeline, though.) It should happen because a book properly hooked into the Internet is a far more valuable collection of information than a book not properly hooked into the Internet. Once something is “properly hooked into the Internet,” that something is part of the Internet.
It will happen because: What is a book, after all, but a collection of data (text + images), with a defined structure (chapters, headings, captions), meta data (title, author, ISBN), prettied up with some presentation design? In other words, what is a book, but a website that happens to be written on paper and not connected to the Web?
E-books to date have mostly been approached as digital versions of print books to be read on a variety of digital devices, with a few bells and whistles–like video. While the false battle between e-books and print books will continue–you can read one on the beach, with no batteries; you can read another at night with no bedside lamp–these battles only scratch the surface of what the move to digital books really means. They continue to ignore the real, though as-yet unknown, value that comes with books being truly digital; not the phony, unconnected digital of our current understanding of “e-books.”
Thinking of e-books as just another way to consume a book lets the publishing business ignore the terror of a totally unknown business landscape and concentrate on one that looks at least similar in structure, if not in profits and losses. While you can list advantages and disadvantages of print books vs e-books, these are all asides compared with the kind of advantages that we have come to expect of digital information properly hooked into the Internet.
What’s striking about this state of affairs–though not surprising, given the conservative nature of the publishing business, and the complete unknowns about business models–is that we define e-books by a laundry list of things one cannot do with them:
–You cannot deep link into an e-book–say, to a specific page or paragraph chapter or image or table.
–You cannot really “link” to an e-book, only to various access points to instances of that e-book, because there is no canonical “e-book” to link to. There is no permalink for a chapter, and no Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for an e-book itself.
–You (usually) cannot copy and paste text, the most obvious thing one might wish to do.
–You cannot query across, say, all books about Montreal written in 1942–even if they are from the same publisher.
You cannot do any of these things because we still consider books as living outside of the Internet, even if they are of the e-flavor. You might be able to buy them on the Internet, but the stuff contained within them is not hooked in. E-books are an attempt to make it easier for people to buy and read books without letting e-books become part of the Internet.
Many people don’t want books to become part of the Internet, because we just don’t know what business would look like if they were. This will change, slowly or quickly. While the value of the digitization of books for readers has primarily been about access and convenience, there is massive, untapped and unknown value to be discovered once books are accessible in the way well-structured websites are.
The secret among those who have poked around EPUB, the open specification, is that an .epub file is really just a website, written in XHTML, with a few special characteristics, wrapped up. It’s wrapped up so that it is self-contained (like a book! between covers!) and it’s harder to do the things with an e-book that one expects to be able to do with a website. EPUB is really a way to build a website without letting readers or publishers know it.
But everything exists within the EPUB spec already to make the next obvious but frightening step: Let books live properly within the Internet, along with websites, databases, blogs, Twitter, map systems, and applications.
There is little talk of this anywhere in the publishing industry that I know of, but the foundation is there for the move. If you are looking at publishing with any kind of long-term business horizon, this is where you should be looking. (Just ask Google , a company that has been laying the groundwork for this shift with Google Books).
An API is an ” Application Programming Interface.” It’s what smart Web companies build so that other innovative companies and developers can build tools and services on top of their underlying databases and services.
– Google Maps has an AI so that geo-location services (like Yelp) can use Google Maps and the business data contained therein to better serve their customers
– Twitter has an API so that other services can build Twitter clients, search Twitter, provide Twitter analytics, etc.
– Amazon has an API that lets developers easily find and point to product information.
– Wikipedia has an API so that you can do things like make book of every edit done on the Wikipedia article, ” The Iraq War”
We are a long, long way from publishers thinking of themselves as API providers, or as the Application Programming Interface for the books they publish. But we’ve seen countless times that value grows when data is opened up (sometimes selectively) to the world. That’s really what the Internet is for and that is where book publishing is going, eventually.
I don’t know exactly what an API for books would look like, nor do I know exactly what it means. I don’t know what smart things people will start to do when books are truly of the Internet. But I do know that it will happen, and the “Future of Publishing” has something to do with this. The current world of e-books is a transition to a digitally connected book publishing ecosystem that won’t look anything like the book world we live in now.
Books will be now on the Internet.. Very soon On the Web You have access to
The Merging of the Internet and the Books-Ebooks
Book and internet: can you see the join?
It's easy to forget that the world wide web as we know it today evolved from an early attempt to put books on the Internet. When Tim Berners-Lee envisaged what would become the world wide web, it was with the idea of making academic papers and other documents widely available. To this end he devised a simple way of laying out text and images on a page, inventing what we now call Hypertext Markup Language or HTML.
Early HTML could define pages and paragraphs, bold and italicise text, embed images and lay out tables. A little more than 20 years later, HTML 5 includes media playback and animation, and the web has now become so ubiquitous that for most users it is indistinguishable from the underlying framework of the internet itself, but at its core the technology of the web remains little changed. Every web page, however sophisticated it may seem, is basically a digital book that we read on our computer through our web browser.
So when Hugh McGuire, founder of PressBooks and LibriVox, stated today that the book and the internet will merge, he was in one sense simply reiterating what is already the case. But from the perspective of people without the technical knowledge to see how closely entwined the book and the internet already are, it has the whiff of yet another doom-monger proclaiming the death of the book as we know it.
McGuire's argument hinges on the recent emergence of ebooks as a serious contender to the print book as the dominant artifact of the publishing industry, with some suggesting that ebooks will make up 50% of the book market by 2015 thanks to the Kindle, iPad and smartphones. Ebooks are deliberately packaged and marketed to appear as much like traditional print books as possible, so many readers will be surprised to discover that ebooks are built around much the same HTML structure that powers the web. Every ebook, no matter how much like a print book it may seem, is a web page that we read on the simplified browser embedded in our e-reader of choice.
The distinction between the ebook/webpage, webpage/ebook is not a material one. In technological terms they are exactly the same thing. But when McGuire first mooted his argument on Twitter in April last year my response likely mirrors the response of many book readers, "Books are researched, written, edited, published, marketed … and hence paid for. The internet is ego noise, hence free." The distinction many of us draw between a book and a webpage is one of quality and hence of value. The real question raised by McGuire's argument is whether we continue to value ebooks as books, or as webpages. Books are something we pay for. Webpages are things we read for free. Which model will win out?
Unless you are one of the very small number of people whose fortunes rest upon the outdated business model of publishing, you should hope that the latter wins. Because this is about a much bigger issue than how writers and editors get paid for the valuable work they do. For hundreds of years we've been slowly expanding the reach of human knowledge, both in terms of what we know and how many of us know it. Today we take a resource like Wikipedia for granted – but compare it with the situation of only a few decades ago, when the majority of the population had lacked easy access to such knowledge. The benefits of expanding access to knowledge, both social and economic, are incalculable.
Now we stand at the threshold of possibly the most revolutionary advances in human history. The combined technologies of the internet – HTML webpages, ebooks, search technology, social media and many more – are very close to making all human knowledge accessible to all people for free. Even the short-term consequences of this advance are hard to envisage, and in the long term it has the potential to improve our future as much as the invention of the printing press improved our past and present.
Every time society advances, it faces challenges from those people economically and emotionally invested in the past. Undoubtedly stone age flint knappers were less than happy about bronze-age technology disturbing their business modell. The medieval church was none too pleased about printing technology breaking their hegemony over knowledge, but we'd never have had the Enlightenment without it. Today the media-conglomerates, governments and educational institutions that profit from gatekeeping knowledge of all kinds are pushing the Stop Online Piracy, and even more draconian legislation to try and hold back the flood of free knowledge that threatens their power. Unless we want to stay in the knowledge equivalent of the stone age, and miss the next enlightenment the knowledge revolution promises to bring with it, we should all redouble our efforts to make sure they lose.
For centuries the book has been the highest symbol of knowledge. The object that has enshrined and preserved knowledge through history. The book is so inextricably linked with our concept of knowledge that for many people it is hard to separate one from the other. But for human knowledge to reach its full potential, we may have to let go of the book-as-object first, or open our thinking to a radically different definition of what a book is.
The New Look Way Of Appreciating Music
The Effects of Streaming Artists Music And the Abysmal Payout Thereof
David Byrne: 'The Internet Will Suck All Creative Content Out Of The world'.
The Boom in digital streaming may generate profits for record labels and free content for consumers, but it spells disaster for today's artists across the creative industries.
"Awhile ago Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead got some attention when they pulled their recent record from Spotify. A number of other artists have also been in the news, publicly complaining about streaming music services (Black Keys, Aimee Mann and David Lowery of Camper van Beethoven and Cracker). Bob Dylan, Metallica and Pink Floyd were longtime Spotify holdouts – until recently. I've pulled as much of my catalogue from Spotify as I can. AC/DC, Garth Brooks and Led Zeppelin have never agreed to be on these services in the first place.
So, what's the deal? What are these services, what do they do and why are these musicians complaining?
There are a number of ways to stream music online: Pandora is like a radio station that plays stuff you like but doesn't take requests; YouTube plays individual songs that folks and corporations have uploaded and Spotify is a music library that plays whatever you want (if they have it), whenever you want it. Some of these services only work when you're online, but some, like Spotify, allow you to download your playlist songs and carry them around. For many music listeners, the choice is obvious – why would you ever buy a CD or pay for a download when you can stream your favourite albums and artists either for free, or for a nominal monthly charge?
Not surprisingly, streaming looks to be the future of music consumption – it already is the future in Scandinavia, where Spotify (the largest streaming service) started, and in Spain. Other countries are following close behind. Spotify is the second largest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Significantly, that's income for labels, not artists. There are other streaming services, too – Deezer, Google Play, Apple and Jimmy Iovine of Interscope has one coming called Daisy – though my guess is that, as with most web-based businesses, only one will be left standing in the end. There aren't two Facebooks or Amazons. Domination and monopoly is the name of the game in the web marketplace.
The amounts these services pay per stream is minuscule – their idea being that if enough people use the service those tiny grains of sand will pile up. Domination and ubiquity are therefore to be encouraged. We should readjust our values because in the web-based world we are told that monopoly is good for us. The major record labels usually siphon off most of this income, and then they dribble about 15-20% of what's left down to their artists. Indie labels are often a lot fairer – sometimes sharing the income 50/50.
Damon Krukowski (Galaxie 500, Damon & Naomi) has published abysmal data on payouts from Pandora and Spotify for his song "Tugboat" and Lowery even wrote a piece entitled "My song got played on Pandora 1 Million times and A I got Was $16,89. Less than what I Make from a single T-Shirt Sale!" For a band of four people that makes a 15% royalty from Spotify streams, it would take 236,549,020 streams for each person to earn a minimum wage of $15,080(9,435 Pounds) a year. For perspective, Daft Punk's song of the summer, "Get Lucky", reached 104,760,000 Spotify streams by the end of August: the two Daft Punk guys stand to make somewhere around $13,000 each. Not bad, but remember this is just one song from a lengthy recording that took a lot of time and money to develop. That won't pay their bills if it's their principal source of income. And what happens to the bands who don't have massive international summer hits?
In future, if artists have to rely almost exclusively on the income from these services, they'll be out of work within a year. Some of us have other sources of income, such as live concerts, and some of us have reached the point where we can play to decent numbers of people because a record label believed in us at some point in the past. I can't deny that label-support gave me a leg up – though not every successful artist needs it. So, yes, I could conceivably survive, as I don't rely on the pittance that comes my way from music streaming, as could Yorke and some of the others. But up-and-coming artists don't have that advantage – some haven't got to the point where they can make a living on live performances and licensing, so what do they think of these services?
Some artists and indie musicians see Spotify fairly positively – as a way of getting noticed, of getting your music out there where folks can hear it risk free. Daniel Glass, of Glassnote records, who have the very popular band Mumford & Sons says: "When you have quality and you're in the sophomore stage of this band's career, I think the fear of holding it back is worse than letting it go. Opening up the faucet and letting people hear it, stream it and all that stuff is definitely very healthy." Cellist Zoë Keating sees it similarly: Spotify is "awesome as a listening platform. In my opinion artists should view it as a discovery service rather than a source of income."
I can understand how having a place where people can listen to your work when they are told or read about it is helpful, but surely a lot of places already do that? I manage to check stuff out without using these services. I'll go directly to an artist's website, or Bandcamp, or even Amazon – and then, if I like what I hear, there is often the option to buy. Zoë also seems to assume there will be other sources of income (from recorded music). If these services fulfil their mandate, there won't be.
I also don't understand the claim of discovery that Spotify makes; the actual moment of discovery in most cases happens at the moment when someone else tells you about an artist or you read about them – not when you're on the streaming service listening to what you have read about (though Spotify does indeed have a "discovery" page that, like Pandora's algorithm, suggests artists you might like). There is also, I'm told, a way to see what your "friends" have on their playlists, though I'd be curious to know whether a significant number of people find new music in this way. I'd be even more curious if the folks who "discover" music on these services then go on to purchase it. Why would you click and go elsewhere and pay when the free version is sitting right in front of you? Am I crazy?
Emerging And Merging Social Media: Social Media All Directions
Since I am a mediologist, I would like to post a counter article to the one written by David Byrne above. the following article was written by David Allen who posts:
I Disagree With David Byrne And His Spotify Stance
It feels strange to sit down and begin writing a rebuttal to the declamation of a musician who I really admire. David Byrne wrote an article last week for the Guardian titled, "The Internet Will Suck All Creative Content Out Of The World" , in which he states “I’ve pulled as much of my catalogue from Spotify as I can.” Thom Yorke has made similar statements and has removed the catalog of his band Atoms For Peace from Spotify too. In that interview I link to he says “[...] what’s happening in the mainstream is the last gasp of the old industry. Once that does finally die, which it will, something else will happen.” He says this without apparent irony given that “something else” is already happening now and he’s complaining about it. He also took things a bit further with a stronger comment in a Mexican interview, where he says of the music business “This is is like the last fart, the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” Ok then.
What we have here are two bold statements from two bold-faced musicians who want to save musicians and a so-called dying music industry and yet, for all of their best intentions, I believe they are doing music and musicians a disservice. What I have seen so far, is that when articles such as the one by Mr. Byrne are published there tends to not be a counterpoint provided, by in this case the Guardian newspaper, or any other publications that carry these articles. And of course, as the articles are shared far and wide across the apparently much-hated Web, they become gospel to those who read them and unfortunately become quasi-religious texts to musicians of all stripes who blame the Internet for everything that is wrong with their careers.
Here’s my take which I will try to make as succinct as possible: The Internet and Spotify (or any other streaming music service for that matter,) are not to blame for musician’s problems. It is hard for me to understand why intelligent men like David Byrne and Thom Yorke, along with David Lowery, do not appear to understand that we are in the midst of new markets being formed. I would also add that many journalists and media commentators don’t understand this phenomenon either. It is not about technology; it’s about systems and societal shifts. It’s also about music business bubbles. I must also point out that I have been wrong in my thinking and writing about Spotify in the past. After much debate and a reappraisal of my own stance, I have concluded that we can only look to what Internet and mobile users are doing or want to do, and then note how their actions drive technologists to provide platforms for them. Put very simply, that is how markets work.
I have written often that the Internet has brought major change to society, culture and business, so often in fact that I am beginning to sound like a broken record – pun intended. Musicians are the one’s apparently complaining the loudest if we are to believe what we read, although those who represent their complaints have never provided real evidence that there are literally thousands of musicians waiting to storm the supposed barriers of inequality. And yet, when we look to other industries that the Internet flattened, it is hard to find many articles written in defense of say Mom and Pop Travel Agencies who had to adapt to competition from websites like Expedia, or go out of business. And one only has to look at the comments section of Mr Byrne’s article to see how a vast majority of Guardian readers feel about the issues he tells us of (I’ll let you read them, it’s not pretty…)
To be fair Mr. Byrne makes some good points, and I agree with him regarding the click through to buy a song after hearing it on Spotify – why would a user do that? But he conflates issues when he talks about the Internet and “fairness,” just as that other defender of musicians against the Internet, David Lowery, continues to search longingly for an “ethical Internet.” And does Mr. Byrne really believe that the Internet will suck all creative content out of the world? Surely that can’t be true, especially as the Internet allows for everyone to be a creator these days.
So should the recording industry be saved and do musicians need saving? And note that I say recording industry, not the music industry – they are two different things. I have no interest in saving the recording industry in its current form. The recording industry was set up to exploit musicians. It pays low royalties to musicians for sales of their work in return for providing money to musicians so they can record their work. There are multiple examples of different models within this system – but that is the system as it stands. Me and other musicians have often said that ‘we pay back the mortgage but never own the house’ under this system. What that means is that when a musician signs away their rights to their work they hardly ever get those rights back. The way to avoid being trapped in this system is simple – retain the rights to your copyrights. Those copyrights are a tangible good that a musician should own.
In a changing marketplace musicians will benefit from this. Mr Byrne rightly points out that musicians get low royalties from plays on streaming music services. This is because they signed binding contracts with the labels. The labels usually consider an arrangement with a streaming music service as a license. Whenever a label licenses their music catalog to any entity – TV, Film, iTunes, Spotify et al – it takes a 50% charge off the top. The label keeps 50% in other words and musicians get to split the rest. There are different arrangements; some labels pay the artist whatever the agreed recording royalty is, which can typically be 15-25% depending on the deal, and iTunes tends to be treated in the latter manner. Whatever the various deal arrangements this is the system working under the terms of the contracts that musicians signed. And have musicians ever stopped to think that when music fans don’t stream their music in these services, they then get less royalties than Taylor Swift who is streamed a lot? Does anyone think that the 16 year-old Lorde is having sleepless nights over this?
How is this then Spotify’s fault? I argue that it isn’t and I will return to that in a moment.
Let me give you some quick examples of how the Internet disrupted certain markets and what happened to companies who didn’t pay attention to that simple fact.
Despite the societal changes apparent to anyone who owned a digital camera or currently owns an iPhone, companies like Kodak, Polaroid and BlackBerry simply continued to double-down on their efforts to combat change. And by change I mean combat what people were actually doing – they no longer used cameras that required film, they no longer wanted Polaroids nor did the BlackBerry remain the telecommunicating device of choice. This was not fantasy, it was fact. The results of people’s buying actions clearly showed that when they switched to products they preferred, discarding what they considered less useful products, then marketplaces changed. Kodak is in bankruptcy, Polaroid is struggling to be relevant, and BlackBerry has put itself up for sale after plunging from an 80% market share. Let’s not forget that the iPhone arrived in June 2007. It did not exist prior to that. It completely disrupted the marketplace for smartphones just as the iPod before it had become the Walkman for a new generation. Apple created a new marketplace for music.
Back to Spotify. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this generation’s music fans want to rent their music, not own it. Spotify may not have created that shift but they certainly provided a solution to easy access, mobile music streaming. They simply saw consumer demand, just as any company in any marketplace could determine. I am certain that Spotify would want every single music fan on their service to pay the monthly subscription, but is it their fault if we choose not to do that and listen to the ad-supported version instead? Is it HBO’s fault that I chose to cancel my Comcast cable TV account years ago? No. I hate the lack of programming choice within Comcast’s cable system. That is what this generation’s music fans are doing when using streaming services – choosing to create their own programming. Instead of complaining about Comcast I simply found other ways, yes via the Internet, to access programs that I enjoy. And how many musicians out there in the world use Spotify’s service by the way? I’d bet there are many. And also why do Mr. Byrne and Mr. Yorke single out Spotify in their arguments? Why not go after YouTube? Is it really all about money?
And yes, using the Spotify service creates a quandary for many creators. My friend Rick Moody confessed to me that he feels queasy when he uses Spotify. Is that because as a talented and well-regarded author and musician, he is siding subconsciously with musicians while trying to deny how much he enjoys the convenience of Spotify’s service? I believe so. And I wonder – do many musicians and creators feel queasy when they listen to FM radio? An ad-supported service that is free to listen to and pays out royalties to music publishers based on radio play – ie, the more artists are played the more they get paid.
One thing is certain: When artists remove their music from Spotify they are simply ensuring that they will receive zero royalties from that service. They will also ensure that they are not in a service that provides massive distribution of their work that is not a walled garden like FM radio is. And remember, not all artists are popular therefore not all artists receive the same amount of royalties from airplay or from streaming services. It is worth noting that Spotify has one billion playlists created by users. Musicians are not the only creators. Internet users most likely make far more content to post to the Web for free than all musicians combined. It’s a societal phenomenon that can’t be denied. Musicians must look to where society is headed now and supply music through the channels that their fans are using (and yes, we musicians used to be on the bleeding edge of culture and society leading the charge… no longer it seems, as we are reduced to being mere commentators, myself included.) Don’t expect young people to change their habits anytime soon.
And as for the question about how musicians should be compensated, what exactly do Mr. Byrne and Mr. Yorke expect Spotify to do? The company has already paid out in excess of $500 million in royalties, a sum that makes up 70% of the company’s revenue. Should they be expected to pay out even more than 70% in royalties?
Mr. Byrne recommends that musicians may want to take pause before jumping in, quoting Mr. Lowery – “there’s no reason artists should simply accept the terms and join up with whatever new technology comes along.” That’s a fair point, but you can’t not join up if you have a contract with a label, but have they both taken pause themselves and asked if Spotify might be on the same side as musicians where the common enemy could be considered the broad devaluation of art in general, and that Spotify has at least created a system where people actually pay for music? After all, musicians seem to be constantly complaining that *everyone* is stealing music (a complaint that I don’t agree with.)
Clay Shirky has written, in response to people who said the Internet is destroying print, books, newspapers etc, that “…the Internet is the largest group of people who care about reading and writing ever assembled in history.” And that is true. Now consider that more people on the planet have more access to music than ever before. Then consider that your average music consumer used to buy about six CDs a year. Then consider that Spotify has users who pay $120 a year in subscriptions, of which 70% is paid out to music labels. That is money that might be considered “found” money, money that didn’t exist before streaming services kicked in. Like I said, if a musician decides against being in a music streaming service then their royalties are zero.
I also believe we need far more transparency around the organizations that purport to represent artists in this grand debate. Mr. Byrne points us in his article to the Content Creators Coalition. Does anyone else see the irony in how this organization is reaching out to creators? Via a zero-barrier entry to the much-maligned Web. And who are the people who make up this organization, who say they want a coalition of creators, creators who appear to be determined as only “musicians, writers and audio-visual artists”? If Mr Byrne is concerned about giving away personal information on the Web, why does he point me to a site that demands my email address for entry, a website that does not share the names and professions of those people behind the site? There is only this statement – “A dedicated group of artists, creators, and stakeholders are forming a new and unprecedented coalition” – but who are they, what’s their real agenda? Who is going to shake me down if I don’t agree with their methods? Transparency would be a great start.
Do we musicians require an organization such as the Content Creators Coalition? I think not. We need less one-sided articles and more education about what is actually happening in society and culture today. As As George Orwell– “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Whatever has been happening to music has been in front of our noses for the last two decades. Popular music used to be one of the leading edges of popular culture, but now as each new generation embraces it we find that what Sol LeWitt said many years ago is so evidently true, if not more so – “every generation renews itself in its own way; there is always a reaction against whatever is standard.”
What we are then left with, finally, is that this debate will continue for some time. At its heart it is about the musician’s place in the marketplace once they joined the business of music. It is about remuneration based on the weak term “fairness.” Technology created the platforms that musicians must now contend with, and let’s be clear here, many have come to grips with those platforms and are having great success reaching their audiences, because their audiences use these platforms. So it is not *all musicians* complaining about this spurious “unfairness.”
It is time for influential musicians to openly and transparently convene and produce real solutions to real problems that will help musicians understand what is really going on. A debate in online media about online media is a dead end.
Meanwhile, appearing to be elitist and Luddite is not a good way to win over today’s music fans to one’s cause; let’s leave that to be the historical legacy of the RIAA.
The New Is In, the Old, Out
The Dictates Of Technopoly
In realm and cyber soup as it present itself for us to stream in it, there are many things and behaviors, understanding and ways of seeing and thinking that are completely new. The discarding of the standards by the new wave of reckon, is what is the key towards learning the new technologies and their techniques embedded in the new, merging and emerging, technologies and techniques. Both takes are correct in their own sort of way. Byrnes is right as to the making of creativity obsolete, which is the nature of the Internet/Web; and Dave Allen is also correct, because we have to learn and accommodate the new technological times, and in so doing, find new and creative ways of dealing and understanding the new emerging and merging gizmos with their embedded Technology and technique, made for easy use by us, and this means a new way of communicating and being has materialized, and we are to work assiduously hard to understand and maybe have some semblance of control over it.
There is cognitive dislocation at the end of the the analogue phase of the technologies and their techniques. Understanding and knowing the depth and breadth of these incoming gizmos, we also must know them well, and understand what use are they to us, and how we in turn are used by the very creations of our imagination and lives. I a in agreement with the idea that we need to adjust and adapt to the and they to our way of life and demands, and try our best to recognize the side-effects/affect of imbibing these technologies and using eth,
[Studio Stream] ~ Viral Video Edition
Analogue/Digital Writing To reach Broader Audience - Writing A Book Or Publishing on the Web
Authorship in the Digital Age - Universality In The Technological Societies
Francina Cantatore writes the following in her Disertation about Authorship in the Digital Evolutionary era:
"It is significant that the writings of Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Eco and Saunders were executed without considering the effects of digital technology on writing and authorship. Digital technology has seen the emergence of hypertext (short for hypertext mark-up language, or HTML), which denotes the relationship between nodes of text connected electronically in cyberspace. It allows for the linking of texts, diagrams and visual images in a non-linear fashion (Malpas & Wake, 2006, p.203).
As Debray points out:
With data systems used for interactivity and geometrically variable hypertext, the reader is no longer simply a spectator, one who looks at meaning through the page‘s window in rectangle, from the outside, but co-author of what he reads, a second writer and active partner (1996, p.145).
These comments appear to support Eco‘s earlier arguments on the importance of the reader and reader-response, referred to above. However, some authors such as Burke are critical of this movement towards reader empowerment. Burke discusses the efforts of ̳technological visionaries‘ to eliminate the author in the epilogue of his book, The death and return of the author (1992). He refers to Landow, who argues that electronic linking facilitates the linking of texts, similar to the way in which Barthes, Derrida and Foucault stressed the interconnectedness of all written works. According to Landow, it further promotes active participation by the reader (for example, by clicking on a highlighted link to move to another website or by adding links and comments) (1992, p.192-3).
Landow regards hypertext as having a ̳liberating and empowering quality‘ that provides the reader with power to write and link and ̳which removes much of the gap in conventional status between reader and author‘ and ̳permits readers to read actively in an even more powerful way – by annotating documents, arguing with them, leaving their own traces...The very open-endedness of the text also promotes empowering the reader‘ (1992, p.178).
This viewpoint represents a paradigm shift in which the text revolves around the reader rather than the author. It concurs with the viewpoints of Barthes and Eco
in the sense that the author is removed from the text once it is created, and reader interpretation becomes central to the reading experience.
Burke criticises it as an ̳ultrademocratic‘ freedom which is awarded to the reader in opposition to a what he sardonically refers to as ̳tyranically author- centred literature which forces the reader down a pre-determined and linear path imposed by authorial intention‘ (1992, p.200). He is firm in his rejection of the reader empowerment argument proposed by Landow and states:
The argument for the political value of displacing the author fails to persuade... In associating itself with a politics of reading, the ̳theorisation‘ of digital technology – something altogether different from the work of those who construct and refine technologies – disinters some of the most egregiously falsifying arguments for the removal of the author (1992, p.200).
It may be suggested that there is merit in Burke‘s criticism of the attempted ̳removal of the author from the written work‘ and that the concept of authorship as it relates to authorial subjectivity and creative intention may be in danger of being significantly altered by digital interpretation and reader response.
It may be argued that the concept of authorship is constantly evolving in the public sphere, not only as a result of technological change or historical and legal developments, but also because of the changing perception of what an ̳author‘ is in the digital era, as discussed below.
THE KEYBOARD AUTHOR
This then brings us to the third enquiry: Who and what is the author in the digital era?, leading to the further question: what does the future hold for the author persona? Such an investigation encompasses both aspects of the author, those of creator and rights holder, and requires consideration of how new media technology has impacted upon our perception of the author figure.
„When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody.‟
Writer or author?
It may be argued that, with the increased opportunities for publication on the internet, the definition of ̳author‘ has become a fluid concept. Young, in his book The book is dead – long live the book (2007) describes the traditional transformation from writer to author as follows:
Everybody is a writer. Once written, getting a book published is the holy grail. When the book launch is done, and the book sits on shop shelves to be turned cover-out by family and friends, a writer becomes an author, they have been accepted into an elite club, their chosen path has been validated (2007, pp.67-8).
Young further argues that ̳book culture‘ depends on authority and that authors are the source of that authority, depicting books as ̳creative acts whose only constraints are imposed by the author. Despite the alternative possibilities for validation created by new media technologies, he still maintains that ̳only the publishing process turns writers into authors and ideas into books ̳(2007, pp.82- 3).
He regards the internet as a ̳social amplifier‘ which not only has ̳provided a means of production to millions of writers, it has turned them into authors with significant readership‘ (2007, p.71). He refers to content creators such as bloggers and the writers of ̳fan-fiction‘ (writing based on existing stories or television series) and cites examples of popular blogs that have been published as books, so-called „blooks‟, such as Julia and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Kitchen Apartment‟ (2007, p.76). To Young, the new media forms allow for ̳dynamic collaborative writing possibilities‘; however, he acknowledges that ̳for academics, journalists and others who write for a living, the blog is yet to gain required professional status‘ (2007, p.80).
It is suggested here that the early twenty-first century author must of necessity be viewed in the context of the digital arena, an expanded ̳literary sphere‘ within which the traditional concept of the author has been modified. This is largely due to the globalisation and diversification of the publishing industry and increased access to publication, but also to changes in the public perception of the value of creative work. Young‘s viewpoint that the new media technologies
have blurred the lines between writing and publishing (2007, p.83) is borne out by the ease with which anyone with an internet connection can instantly write and publish content on the internet. It is evident that, contrary to the distinct author-reader roles envisaged by theorists such as Foucault and Derrida, the blurring of the author-reader roles on the internet has become a relevant consideration in the perception of what an author is, especialy as authors are not always able to control the use of hypertext and linking on the internet.
In 2010, Pelli and Bigelow provided a graph of the history of authorship, which took into account the number of published authors per year, since 1400, for books and, more recently, for social media, including blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They considered, for the purpose of the research, an author‘s text ̳published‘ if 100 or more people had read it. The graph showed that, since 1400, book authorship had grown nearly tenfold each century and that, presently, authorship (according to their wider definition which included social media) was growing nearly tenfold each year. Their research revealed that new media authorship was growing 100 times faster than books (Pelli & Bigalow 2010, p.1).
One may validly observe that the effects of hypertext, reader participation and increased collaboration has created a new breed of writer: the digital author. However, the quality and quantity of creative content and the identity of the writer remain distinguishing factors in this electronic sphere, separating the author from the reader/commentator. As with most things, change is inevitable and survival depends on the timely recognition of changing circumstance. As Pelli and Bigelow observe: As readers we consume. As authors we create. Our society is changing from consumers to creators‘ (2010, p.2). Readers are becoming writers, writers are turning into authors and authors have to rise to the challenge of distinguishing themselves on the worldwide web.
Age of Universal Authorship
The upshot of this is simple. As the article suggests, we are nearing an age of nearly universal authorship. The question that remains is how educators and educational systems – the creators of those hated classroom essays – can adapt to this change. Currently, researchers are exploring how students' out-of-classroom writing, such as with fanfictions, can be used to help them learn. However, educators need to also address the continuing role of shame that is part of our discussions of young persons' writing.
For example, we routinely warn students about the negative consequences of capturing their youthful indiscretions in social media, yet rarely are these (wholly appropriate) warnings accompanied by positive examples of the ways that students can use new media as authors for creative expression. As with those in Brandt's study, we are once again enforcing the idea that the expression of students' questions and ideas, thoughts and feelings in public forums is a shameful act to be avoided, rather than a benefit, not just to them, but to others.
In short, we need to prepare our students for an age of universal authorship; that is, teaching them to be effective authors, not in the traditional educational sense, where they are writing for a small in-group of peers, but in the broad, public sense, where they are daily interacting with the world.
Pedagogy In Process And Progress
Laptops Replaceing Books In This Medical Class Above.. Are Books Obsolete?...
Jaron Lanier: You Are Not a Gadget.. Computer scientist Jaron Lanier discusses his new book, "You Are Not a Gadget." Lanier discusses the technical and cultural
Are Books Still Important?... Well
Marie Brown: Harlem's Literary Agent
An UPTOWN Continuing Literary Tradition (Harlem 1986 - 1996) by Marie Brown
I am going to cite the whole presentation that was given by Marie Brown, in a Symposium in the Museum of the City Of New York below.
TriHarLeninum 1976 -2006 chronicles the evolution of the Harlem community during these decades. The project includes four symposium/performances capturing the stories of a diverse panel of artists, scholars, historians, community activists, clergy, and others, as well as five performances of Craig S. Harris' composition in cultural institutions and public parks throughout Harlem.
TriHarLeninum is the first commissioned work of the harlem is…MUSIC projects. harlem is…MUSIC, the newest component of the Community Works' harlem is…MUSIC series, celebrates the history and legacy of the music in Harlem through exhibitions and pubic programs.
A musical tribute to the history of Harlem, this performance and symposium highlights TriHarLenium, a musical composition capturing the sounds of Harlem over three decades by Craig S. Harris, followed by a panel discussion focusing on Harlem from 1986-1996, moderated by Professor David Lionel Smith of Williams College, with Professor Bob O'Meally, Chair, Columbia University Center for Jazz Studies, music journalist Greg Tate, literary agent Marie Brown, Craig S. Harris, and others. Presented in collaboration with Community Works, as part of its Harlem is…Music public art and education program.
Book: Men We Raped: A Memoir By Jesmyn Ward
Thank you Bob, Voza [Voza Rivers Chairman Harlem Arts Alliance], Barbara and Craig for the opportunity to share with you some recollections of the my personal and public literary and publishing world between 1986 and 1996 and also I would like to thank Herb Boyd who promptly responded to my cry for help when I thought that I would not be able to recall anything. He immediately mentioned a few events and my memory switch was turned on!
That there is a strong literary legacy and publishing tradition in Harlem is hardly a revelation to readers of African American cultural history. From 1986-1996 , there is much literary, photographic and video documentation of the strong presence of writing and publishing originating and being marketed and promoted in Harlem from Morningside Heights to Sugar Hill and east to west —river to river.
I should also add that if I inadvertently omit any significant person, organization, institution it is simply a matter of allotted TIME and MEMORY—mostly due to the latter.
Herb Boyd: Professor/Journalist/Writer
Rediscovering and documenting the richness of this literary tradition and its participants in our Harlem community is an obligation that we must meet because much of this documentation cannot be found elsewhere.
What has reinforced this belief is that over the past three years or so I have had the opportunity and privilege to assist our venerable journalism and black press pioneer, cultural activist and Harlem resident Evelyn Cunningham with organizing her papers, books and other memorabilia as well as witnessing a few of the scores of interviews that she has agreed to; documenting her life and work, spanning the past 91 years.
What has been of great interest to the interviewers who have included Dr. Camille Cosby's National Visionary Leadership Project, Dr. Brenda Square of The Amistad Research Center at Tulane in New Orleans and as recent as last week Chicago based Historymakers archival project is that during the interviews there is much discussion devoted to Evelyn's life in Harlem, where she moved with her family when she was a young child of elementary school age.
The conversations that I have observed on these occasions have reinforced and reminded me constantly of Harlem's LIVING and continuing tradition of art in all categories and activism. In addition, my participation in this series has prompted me to research and revisit so many of my own experiences in Harlem., where I have lived since 1982.
From my early childhood I had had a close relationship with Harlem, as a result of our annual family visits throughout the late 1940's and 50's with my cousins Ralph and Connie Hawkins at their home on 152nd Street btw Amsterdam and St. Nicholas…two blocks from 154th Street where I now live and work. Later on in the 1960's my running buddies and I thinking we were quite hip traveled from Philly on the weekends to hang out with them and later on our own.
During those visits I was shown and recognized the cultural gem that Harlem was then and remains to this day.
Fast forwarding to 1986, we had settled into life uptown after moving from the upper west side of Manhattan to 51 St. Nicholas Place.
Looking back, I now realize that this was the first manifestation of Marie's uptown literary group home; an extension of what used to be on W. 83rd Street. In temporary residence at one time or one place or the other there would be a diverse group of visiting writers and artists' that included Verta Mae Grosvenor, David Jackson, Robert Fleming, Nettie Jones, Waymon Reed and of course Ken Brown and others.
Very often there would be informal gatherings of a diverse group of folks who just sort of "dropped by".southern style. I remember a few years of Open Houses on New Years Day when I had only mentioned a day or so beforehand to David Jackson our unofficial cultural envoy that it would be nice if a few people stopped by on the first and by the end of the evening more than 100 people had done exactly that. David was quite a promoter, writer, bibliophile, critic and cultural activist . He and I produced the Louis Michaux Book Fair at the Museum when it was located at 125th and 5th Avenue.
In 1984, I had been convinced (quite reluctantly) by publishing friends who were still employed at downtown publishing houses to become a literary agent. A the time I was working at Endicott Booksellers on the upper Westside I really had wanted to get back into the book publishing industry as an editor but that was not happening . So agenting it would be.
Former Doubleday editor, Lawrence Jordan had already established his literary agency uptown.
During those very early years of MBA [Marie Brown Associates] in order to keep the lights on we worked on many publishing related projects including writing and packaging a series of self help books on a range of topics for Longmeadow Press in Connecticut where Harlem Resident Adrienne Ingrum was Publisher and Vice president. We also produced the Minority Suppliers Development Council Newspaper as well as child rearing advertorial supplements for The New York Times. These supplements, titled All About Children, were conceptualized and nurtured by Harlem Resident and New York Times's advertising executive at the time Margaret Porter Troupe. The agency also specialized in marketing and promoting African American books for publishers. Among the projects that our Harlem based operation worked on were I Dream A World, the launching of the One World Imprint at Ballantine Books and packaging and production of a book authored by Michael Cottman and Deborah Willis commemorating the Million Man March and edited by Adrienne who by then was a VP at Crown Publishers.
Although these were our "bread and butter" projects the agency's main concerns focused on the day to day business of agenting and book publishing using our contacts and resources to help authors to get published as well as supporting the programs and various efforts by individuals and organizations to continue the promotion of our African American literary tradition in the city at large but especially in our community.
With the exception of such journalists such as C. Gerald Fraser at the New York Times the mainstream media and to a great extent the publishing and literary media except Publishers Weekly either ignored or paid little attention to what was happening uptown in publishing and the literary arts
Even though many authors participating in programs, readings, and book signings were attracting strong and supportive audiences.
My involvement in the world of book publishing was basically an uptown/downtown kind of experience where too many Black writers were really not being recognized or published in representative numbers .
Enter Glenn Thompson, who had returned from England where he had lived as an Ex-Patriate for many years and there he had established Writers and Readers Publishing Company. When returning to his hometown of NYC in the1980's he recognized the need for an African American Publisher that could successfully publish a range of Black authors that would include
poets, novelists, scholars, historians, cultural activists, children's authors and authors who dealt with self- empowerment issues.
Under the banner of Writers and Readers, Glenn launched Harlem River Press and Black Butterfly Books for Children and continued with his pioneering graphics books that were known in the trade as the BEGINNERS SERIES. Each of these imprints during their existence produced bestselling and award winning books. Writers and Readers' first New York office was located at 125th and Fifth on the NW corner and Glenn was a resident of Harlem and London up to the time of his death in 2001.
Throughout this period African American readers continued to support and appreciate our finest writers and scholars, which was evidenced by the continuing number of readings, book signings and cultural events that were very well attended and widely featured in the black press and on black radio.
The Schomburg Center was and remains Harlem's principle venue for programs offering the works of writers across the Diaspora as well as preservation, discussion, and documentation of their works.
Their calendar in the early 90's included the following videoed and filmed programs :The Afrikan Poetry Theatre's tribute to Harlem's own Sonia Sanchez in 1992 with Amina and Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti and John Watusi Branch.
In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers
Author: Kevin Powell, Ras Baraka (Editor)
Publisher: Writers & Readers Publishing, Inc.
Date Published: September 1992
Format: Trade Paper
At the Schomburg a couple of years later Raymond Patterson hosted a Poetry series that featured the young poets Tony Medina, Tracie Morris, Willie Perdomo and Kevin Powell each of whom would be contributors to the anthology edited by Powell and Ras Baraka and published by Glenn Thompson's Harlem River Press and represented by Marie Brown Associates.
Another program in 1994 illuminated Global Black Voices: Multiculturism in the Black World featuring Maryse Conde, Manthia Diawara, Sindiwe Magona, Walter Moseley and Elizabeth Nunez and in the same year film and video screenings about the lives and works of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Ralph Ellison among others.
While many of the LANGSTON HUGHES FESTIVAL programs took place at City College's Aaron Davis Hall; the Schomburg Center was one of the venues for select programs. The Langston Hughes Festival was launched by Professor Raymond Patterson at City College
In 1986, Raymond Patterson received the Langston Hughes Award, followed in subsequent years by Dennis Brutus, Alice Walker, Amiri Baraka, Alice Childress, Maya Angelou, August Wilson, Chinua Achebe, Ernest J. Gaines in 1994, followed by Ishmael Reed in 1995 and Nikki Giovanni in 1996.
During the Langston Hughes Festival in 1992 at the Schomburg a Literary Forum featured Camille Yarborough, Readings from Langston Hughes' work by Vinie Burrows and a discussion of the work of Dr. Ben [Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan] and Dr. John Henrik Clarke. On another occasion Danny Glover read Langston Hughes at the Festival.
Other literary events including readings, book signings and poetry slams were taking place at The Studio Museum, Branch Libraries, The Apollo, boutiques and churches and other venues.
The Studio Museum in Harlem continued as it had since the very early 70's to present programs featuring the work of new, emerging and established Black artists and authors, very often celebrating and/or selling the published work of novelists, children's book authors, Visual arts scholars and cultural advocates including Deborah Willis, David Driskell and Richard Powell as well as the museum's many exhibition catalogues.
One of the most unique literary events taking place in Harlem (and Brooklyn) was Lana Turner's Literary Society's Read-Ins where the importance of reading and honoring the continuing tradition of African American Writers was uniquely celebrated. At these annual events authors were invited to read from their works however before the readings began the audience would spend an hour reading silently from books that they had bought with them to the event.
The Last Poets...
Readings and writer supportive programs were taking place in every neighborhood in Harlem In East Harlem in the early 90's, poet Willie Perdomo was honoring the tradition of Piri Thomas, author of Down These Mean Streets and Felipe Luciano of The Last Poets.
Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez among others participated in many programs sponsored by the NYPL branch libraries. El Museo del Barrio, and the literacy center, the Friendly Place.
And then there were the organizations, workshops and salons that supported, nurtured and encouraged writers to "keep the faith" and to pursue their craft.
There was no way that any of us who were present on this scene could not witness the impact of the Harlem Writers Guild and the ascendancy of members such as Rosa Guy, Grace Edwards, John Henrik Clarke, Keith Gilyard, William Banks and others.
Out of the Harlem Writers Guild emerged The New Renaissance writers organization that met at the Schomburg and included among their members Arthur Flowers, Malaika Adero, Joyce Dukes, Brenda Conner Bey, B. J. Ashanti, Doris Jean Austin, Terri McMillan and others.
The workshops and salons, the most notable being those that took place at Quincy and Margaret's and others hosted by Lana and the Literary Society continue to this day to provide the positive, informative personal contact that so many readers and authors desire.
Just this brief survey of what was ACTUALLY happening in Harlem but not reported widely is VERY strong evidence of the strength, presence and resilience of the African American Literary tradition and continuing presence in Harlem from 1986 through 1996.
Books And The Internet..
Why the Book and the Internet Will Merge (Hugh Mcguire)
Hugh McGuire builds tools and communities where book publishing and the web intersect. He is the founder of PressBooks (on which this book has been built), and LibriVox.org, a community of volunteers that has created the world’s largest free library of public domain audiobooks.
Sometime last year, I had a moment that felt like a profound revelation, and as with all such revelations of mine, I got me to Twitter and posted there:
The distinction between “the internet” & books is totally totally arbitrary, and will disappear in 5 years. Start adjusting now.
The Distinction Between Books and the Internet Is Arbitrary
It seems almost trivial as far as epiphanies go now, but still at the time it was a kind of shocking realization. If you think about “books”—which are, more or less, collections of words, sentences, and images arranged in a particular way—and compare them to, say, websites—which are, more or less, collections of words, sentences, images, audio, and video, arranged in a particular way—there is a jarring distinction that presents itself. We have decided, for mostly historical reasons, that collections of words and sentences of one kind go into a “book” and collections of words and sentences of another kind go onto the “Internet.”
Books vs the Internet
And the question we must ask is: Why, exactly, have we decided things should be this way? Why is it that only certain kinds of words and sentences are supposed to get sent to printers, stamped in ink on a page, stuffed and bound between covers, and sold in physical stores? (Or, sold through a Kindle, for that matter?) Why is it that other kinds of words and sentences are instead supposed to get typed into a keyboard, sent to a server somewhere, and then transmitted in one way or another to appear on the screens of computers and smartphones of readers around the world? What is the distinction between these kinds of words?
One answer came, from a fellow Twitterer, Damien G. Walter, in response to my initial post.
The Internet is Ego and Noise
There are two powerful ideas behind this point of view. One has to do with quality of work and attention to detail. Books, this position claims, contain “important” work.
Whereas the Internet? The Internet is the domain of celebrity gossip, flamewars, self-obsessed or half-crazed bloggers, and even Twitter.
I call this the Joyce/Cheezburger position.
Joyce vs Cheezburger
So quality of the words (“which are written, researched, edited, marketed” for books versus “ego noise” for the Internet) is one distinction between “books” and the “Internet,” according to this view.
On the question of quality of words, though, it’s clearly not the case that books, which are written, researched, edited, and marketed, can’t be on the Internet. Indeed, one of the first ever web sites, Gutenberg.org—started by Michael Hart in 1971—is dedicated to making public domain books freely available on the Internet.
Free Ebooks from Project Gutenberg
Still, given that Gutneberg.org has been around for 40 years, it’s worth asking why books on the Internet have not been particularly popular among the mass consumer market. I think the reason is simple, and it has little to do with quality of the words or cost. Until recently, most people didn’t seem to want to read books on screens. I was one of those people. I read news and blog posts and Wikipedia articles and emails on a screen, but I just didn’t like reading long-form text—even the great, free ebooks from Project Gutenberg—on a screen.
So there was really not much incentive for publishers to make books into something that could be read on a screen, since very few people wanted to read books from screens. Instead people seemed happy to read books on paper and spend their time on the Internet making funny pictures of cats, blogging about their breakfast, and contributing to the world’s largest encyclopedia.
Then came some new devices, with the full force of marketing giants behind them: Amazon’s Kindle, the Nook, and for me, the revelation was the iPhone. If you can believe it, the first ebook I read was War and Peace, on my iPhone. I loved it. The experience was—for me—comfortable, convenient, pleasant, and revelatory. I was not a convert because of dogma, but rather because I just liked reading on this digital device, and my guess was that once other people experienced reading on this new breed of device, ebooks—with their myriad advantages—would win out.
Reading War and Peace on the iPhone
And now, of course, ebooks have arrived, in force. In 2008—when I read War and Peace on my iPhone—about 1% of trade book sales in the US were ebooks. In 2011 the number was close to 20%. Many expect 50% of trade sales to be ebooks by 2015, if not sooner. Books may not yet be on the Internet in great numbers, but they sure are in people’s Kindles, iBooks, Nooks, and Kobos.
How We Think about Ebooks
While we are in the process of seeing a massive shift in the technology used to read long-form content, to date we’ve actually seen very little real disruption in the structures (rather than mechanisms) by which people get their books to read. That is, the current structures of getting a book into a reader’s hands (publisher -> seller -> reader) looks a lot like the print world. Instead of publishers producing a print book and shipping it to a book store that manages the sales to consumers, publishers now produce an EPUB and send it to an online retailer, which manages sales to consumers.
For all the main players (publishers, retailers, and readers), the ebook business sure looks a lot like the print book business.
And yet the stuff ebooks are made of is very different from what print books are made of.
Ebooks are, in fact, a lot more like websites than like print books. Or rather: they are almost exactly like websites. Ebooks are built in HTML, which is the programming language (or mark-up language, if you prefer) used to make websites. There really isn’t that much difference between the stuff we use to build, say, an article about Britney Spears in the Huffington Post, and an EPUB of Don Quixote.
As we said before, books are just collections of words and media, with a certain structure—chapters, headings—and a bit of metadata—an author, a cover image, a title. If you are making a digital book, it makes sense that you would use the same programming language that you’d use to make a website, since that’s pretty much what a website is.
But there is a catch: Publishers are afraid of websites and the Internet. And rightly so. The Internet gobbles up existing business models and spits out chaos. We’ve seen this with music and with newspapers and movies. Because the Internet could radically change the book publishing business, publishers are right to worry about it.
The solution to date, which addresses this legitimate fear, is to “constrain” ebooks. This means that a lot of the things we take for granted on most websites are just not possible with books. Copy/paste, sharing passages, and generally moving files from one place to another is much harder with ebooks than with other digital goods, because of a combination of constraints in the EPUB format, digital rights management, and device/platform lock-in.
ebooks may be built out of the same stuff as the Internet (that is, HTML), but to date we’ve managed to keep them relatively tame, compared to the wild and wooly world of the Web.
This is a good thing if you have an existing business model you wish to protect (and publishers and authors certainly do, rightly so).
But there is a cost to this protection, because in order to achieve this similarity with the past, we’ve intentionally crippled ebooks. We’ve constrained ebooks so they act more like print books and less like the Web.
Here are just some of the things we expect to be able to do with things on the Internet that we can’t do with ebooks:
link to a specific chapter or page
search for text on the Internet and land on the ebook
leave a comment or feedback in a central place
easily query an API about that ebook
easily search and extract geographic data from an ebook
Here is a question: if you can do certain things with a print book and other things with an ebook, and different kinds of things with a book on the Web, which of these options is more valuable to you as a reader?
Having just ebooks and print books? Or having ebooks, print books, and books on the Web? My answer is, from a pure mathematical view: print, ebook, and Web.
P +E < P+E+W
So what kinds of things might come about if books are connected to the Web? The truth is, we don’t really know. And that is precisely why I believe books will end up on the Web.
Because when things are made accessible on the Web, smart people start to build exciting things. New things get born that we never would have imagined. We’ve seen this time and time again: think about what happened when we started sending correspondence through email, conversation through Twitter, when Google put maps on the Internet and made those maps available through an API. Making things available on the Web gives birth to new and exciting things we can’t yet imagine.
The market economy and the innovative spirit of the Web are great at rewarding those who find ways to deliver more value to people. There will be immense commercial and creative incentive for new publishers to put books on the Web, because there is just more value for readers there. We don’t know what the business models will look like. Subscription books? Advertising? Upselling other products? Serialized books? Something altogether different? We don’t know yet, but eventually courageous new publishers will find out.
Old publishers will follow or perish.
And yet some people find the idea that books will be on the Web to be heretical. Because the Web is filled with lolcatz and ego noise.
But the question isn’t what stupid things people have put on the Web in the past, but what great things we could do if books were connected on the Web in the future. That’s what sets people who love books, and the Web, to dreaming.
Poeople Are Still Reading Books..
Runinations On Books
Having written this Hub thus far, I have casually perusing over the impact of E-books on regular books is having. When I am in the Bus,subway, train, and so forth, I notice that many people are into E-Bokks, and as they are reading the Kindles, some I saw write comments on the digital screen with their fingers, and maybe make a note as one would make a note with a penscil or pen on the book. Many people are gawking at their phones, playing games, texting, or playing games embedded within their contraptions. Whetehr this is reading or what is still not clear...
Books, magazines and newspapers are still being read in these public transport places, but not with the same intensity as the use of the newly emerging gizmos are being used. One other thing, one sees, still many people publish books, which, I would assume, are made into E-books or suitable for Kindle and so forth. When some books are suggested for the Internet and one finds them under "Books" on Google, some have many of their pages cut out, and the whole book is not possible to read in its entirety, I guess egging the reader to buy the book. This tranlslate sinto short-cut reading conditioning and habits, in many ways.
There's a whole army of publishers on the Web are sprouting all over the place encouraging one to publish whatever you have or want published. I have not tried these, but I will one day try and write a quick article of some hundred pages and see if a book will be published from that article by these cpublishing companies. As one watches the news, many peoople's books are being touted as the 'To Be Read" books that have just being published by whatever and whoever the expert is. I would like to think that the big publishing houses are still making a buck, and books are still selling, and it seems like the E-book has not yet broken that stronghold the regular books have on those who still want to read. The New York Times Book Review Mag is still going strong and rating books as it has done for many years
There has been speculation on the Web, from many blogs and forums that people's attention span on the Web is so short, that it is hopeless writing long and involved articles. I belong to HubPages Blog, and my articles are the longest I have seen of any. I do have problems of less traffic since their being published, but I find that in the five years I have been writing, I managed to creep to closer to, or muster some half a million of people who either peeped or came to read my Hubs. This is not great for I am not really generating any income. But the Hubs stay longer and are not yet affected by being decommissioned or removed for many reasons. I would have expected that to be the case given the legnth of my articles, but, within the articles I have thus far published, I still think that the writing approach I use, as if wiriting a book, lengthwise, is still not a bad idea.. Only time will tell...
My way of assising this Web publisnhing was the fact that in the long run, books will be more Web-based, and the format I was allowed to use on HubPages might translate into the digital Age books published originally on the Web. I know that I still have so much work to do on my "Web-Book" Hubs, but I still have that way of seeing the future of the Book being transplanted into the Internet/Web. My hope is that by then I will have done enought copy-editing and proof-reading/updating and upgrading most of the articles that they will become a prominent and permanent feature of Book writing on the Web/HubPages.
Many people have their opinions as to the death and disappearance of books. But for now, as I see it, books still are the mainstay in the reading public, albeit dwindling. But as far as I can ascertain, Books are still being published, bought and read by many people. The Internet is affecting reading and cognition. Many people are hooked into the brevity of data presented just so that they have a sense of what it is all about. But this trucated version of book-reading/publishing as presented on the Web, is much more of a threat, in so far as the disappearance of books is concerned. Many people complain on my Hub that they are too long, but they sometimes promise to return to it. Because, when I write these Hubs, I put all I can muster from many sources, citing whole articles and the like just to make my point varied and be coming from different points of view. This, I believe, Is that I leave everything I write out there on the article, and the reader can make their own judgements.
The Internet media has altered many reading habits and patterns. Many people on the Web have become overnight experts and intellectual just becasue everyone is in a hurry to acquaint themselves with the work than read the whole book to get the total gist of the contents. This is problematic becasue with the speed of the vrial soup, this brings along with it short cuts and some laziness that is justified by the fact that the Web seeks one to write in a shortened form for the readership has that type of short attention-span. I concur, and add that this adds up to the slow-down reading enthusiasm and looking for information in an indepth manner afforded to us by the book. Where will this end, well, with the growth of the Web, we seem to be headed to a semi-or partly literate society, which does not bode well for furture generations
Writing for iPad and Tablet Reading: Things to Know
Is Reading Dying or Flourishing in the Internet Age?
I decided to include this perspectiveas espoused and written by Scott Sterling:
A friend of mine scoffed last week when I noted that I actually budget reading time into my workday. He started with the tried and true “Must be nice to be self-employed.”
I explained that, as a professional writer, reading is just as important as sitting at the keyboard. It provides the raw materials that my brain turns into finished works.
“But why do you have to schedule reading time? You spend 8 hours a day at a computer, like the rest of us. Most of that is reading.”
We then got into a discussion on whether humans read more now than they did 50 years ago, before the majority of us were stuck in front of a screen all day.
I don’t think that anyone can doubt that as a society we read more now than we have at any time in our history, on a per-word basis. Half the people of the civilized world have what amounts to the world’s grandest library in their pocket.
Of course, it’s not just a library.
Estimate how many words you read per day on Twitter alone. If you are a user of any volume at all, that number is at least in the hundreds. Then add on Facebook. Maybe you are an avid user of RSS. Perhaps you are a fan of Fark or Reddit, in which case your per-day word count explodes astronomically. And we won’t even mention texting. A lot of people read the equivalent of a magazine’s worth of text every day.
But why is that not enough for me?
First, because an article from Fark entitled “Pet monkey put on house arrest” is not what anyone would consider high art.
Second, we now have two forms of reading in this brave new world. One which requires a longer attention span, and one for online pursuits. For my purposes, there needs to be a strict ratio of deeper reading to online reading. If nothing else, I need the exercise for my attention span. Sometimes these columns take a long time to write, and if I allow myself too much online billiards, the deadline will pass.
An article in Scientific American by Coco Ballantyne from 2008 – before the widespread adoption of e-readers and tablets – attempted to describe the differences in reading online from reading books.
Citing a study from the Journal of Research in Reading, the article states that the simple acts that we take for granted, like scrolling and changeable dimensions of text, are affecting our neural reasoning – perhaps on an evolutionary level. The simple act of having to scroll down to read more text, or (god forbid) having to click a link to get to the next page of a piece is warping our attention spans and decreasing our tolerance for longer works.
You could be tempted into thinking that this is a harbinger for the death of longer reading. As English teachers have been saying since the advent of the Internet, the novel may not exist for your grandchildren’s generation, and with its demise goes humanity’s most efficient method of storytelling.
But a funny thing is happening while all of this technology is killing longer textual works: more people are reading books and novels than ever before.
For the past 50 years or so, during their various polling, Gallup has systematically asked their respondents if they happen to be reading any books or novels at the present time. In their most recent release of the results of that questions in 2005, nearly half (47 percent) of the people questioned said “yes.”
In 1949, before television allegedly sucked out our parents’ brains and all people had to do for entertainment was read and listen to an hour of radio at night, that number was 21 percent.
I would venture to guess that that percentage has only grown further, now that people can carry thousands of books with them wherever they go and can read them in the little snippets that our brains are now accustomed to while they commute to work or wait at the doctor’s office. I’m even hopeful that the majority of that percentage wouldn’t be made up of people reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
Humans are an adaptable species, which is how we’ve come to rule this planet in the first place (although all bets are off if an asteroid comes around). I have simply adapted my reading habits to my current lifestyle. Apparently other people are doing the same.
Our technology is not destroying our old traditions of transacting information; it is making them accessible to more and more people. One of our priorities moving forward should be ensuring that everyone has that access.
In the Internet age, books have not lost their importance.
Repurposing Content and Content Curation
We Also learn from Olga Santo Tomas Monroe:
We live in a digital age, where information is no longer found through the phone book or word-of-mouth; rather, people get their information from the Internet, primarily using search engines such as Google. Because of this Internet phenomenon, having an online presence as a business is the best possible strategy for marketing your company and services. However, not everyone is a natural writer and not everything needs a blog post. Repurposing content and content curation can be a great way to share valuable information to your customers and prospective customers through your website. Here’s how to create meaningful content that’s been repurposed:
What Exactly is Content Curation?
Content curation refers to the process of finding already existing content and organizing that content in a way that’s relevant to your customers or potential customers. Oftentimes, content curation can involve using very similar content but on a new medium, hence the name “repurposing” content, or giving the content a new purpose. Creating high quality repurposed content involves more than just using already existing content, though; high-quality content will also add new information, a new perspective, or new relevant questions.
What’s the Point of Content Curation?
Content curation is a marketing tool that’s used by companies for their blogs or websites. The point of content curation is to provide valuable information to your customers or potential customers by cutting down the time they spend sifting through useless information. By using content curation, you create content that provides important information to site visitors that’s easy to find and navigate.
How Does Content Curation Work?
Content curation has three primary aspects that go into its creation, which are filtering, analysis, and social rating. Each of these three things can be done either manually or automatically, depending upon the technology that you have access to.
Filtering: Filtering is exactly what is sounds like—choosing material (either through personal preference, votes and views from a social community, or due to the information’s relevance) that should be included in future content based on its current effectiveness.
Analysis: Semantic analysis is the process of looking at a problem and finding information and relationships between existing information that answer that problem. For example, if the problem is “How do I explain my product?” then semantic analysis looks at content to ensure that it’s solving the problem by examining the relationship between statements, facts, and sources in the content.
Social Rating: Social rating simply means that the content that you choose for repurposing was chosen based on the fact that it received a high social rating. This is usually used for social media sites, like Facebook.
When you’re attempting to repurpose content for your own blog or website, the most important aspect you should focus on is filtering already existing information, and adding new, relevant content, too. Use hyperlinks, incorporate multimedia, address the problem, and make a schedule for yourself of when you’ll be posting.
Why You Should Repurpose and Curate Content
Copying and pasting old information into a new blog post simply for the sake of having something on your website isn’t helpful—it doesn’t provide customers with any new information whatsoever.
What is helpful, however, is taking bits and pieces of old information and making it new and exciting for those who visit your site/blog. A great example of repurposing content was Martin Brossman’s Hangout-On-Air with David Amerland about “What’s Beyond Interruption Advertising?” When Brossman went to put the information on his blog, it would have been really easy to just transcribe the dialogue. Instead, though, Brossman added new, free content and ideas that he learned in the interview, and organized it in an easy-to-navigate and relevant fashion.
Essentially, your job is to find content that you think is meaningful, and then to explain why it’s meaningful to your customers. By doing so, you’ll be creating a website or blog with a strong online presence, you’ll drive more traffic to your site, and you’ll be providing customers and potential customers with what they need.
Books vs Web Surfing/e-Books
Book Reading As Opposed To Web Surfing
From the floolwing interview, we get a diferent prespective and scond look at books as seen by Rushkoff today.
ERIC ALLEN BEEN: You’ve said that “present shock” is in some sense a lens — a way of looking at the digital world and our condition in it. Could you describe what the current state of journalism looks like to you through that lens?
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Present shock is basically the human response to living in a world where everything happens at once. Where we can no longer think about the future, because this moment is everything. And it’s to some extent our anxious reactions to the pings of the digital media environment and its static quality.
In regards to legacy journalism, a lot of people are disconnected from it partly because of present shock. When they’re living on digital platforms that emphasize choice over any kind of prescriptive pathways, they tend to lose any sense of value in pretty much anything professional or authoritative. They sort of descent into a very relativistic view of things — where anybody who can blog or get on the net is pretty much as valuable as anybody else, so there’s no authoritative opinion.
It’s become hard for people to justify why to pay attention to one thing instead of another. So you end up with people — and this is young and old — wondering why we have professional journalists at all. There are reasons why I don’t like this situation. Governments and corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars creating false truths and there’s this society that’s not willing to spend a few hundred bucks so that reporters can find out the real story. To apply some professional skill at following and deconstructing what’s going on.
BEEN: Yet you’re pretty critical of the media in the book — for instance, writing that “media events tend to matter less for whatever they are purportedly about than for the space they fill.
”RUSHKOFF: Critical of some forms of it. Current events really only matter to the extent that they can fill this cultural standing wave that’s looking for a particular kind of content to fill it. It means that what’s driving our fascination is more primal or emotional or cultural than it is actual.
Why do we get fascinated with the Casey Anthony trial, as opposed to anything else that happened on the same day? Because it got picked. I’ve thought long and hard about that Deepwater Horizon oil spill video that was sitting in the top of the CNN news screen for so long. It was present and interminable at the same time. That weird kind of frozen, continuous, anxious presence that I’m talking about in Present Shock.
BEEN: Speaking of CNN, you recently announced in a column on its site that you quit Facebook. Yet you kept your Twitter account and have a pretty active one. As a writer, why does Twitter still have value for you but Facebook no longer does?RUSHKOFF: I think that they both have value — it’s just that Facebook actively misrepresents me to other people, to people who choose to “like me” on it and so on. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be inviting them to make themselves vulnerable to all these kinds of misrepresentations — things like whether their image will be put in an ad that I may not condone myself. It’s a case in point of what I call in my book “digiphrenia” — namely, an instance of you doing something online you’re completely unaware of. On Twitter, I get the ability to broadcast ideas and links and messages to other people, but with far fewer strings attached. Twitter is much more about spreading and exchanging links — 140 characters are not where the real content lies.
BEEN: So you do think there are some media outlets that aren’t determined by presentism?
RUSHKOFF: Yes, I think some are recognizing that they’re better off explaining the news than driving it or trying to keep up with it. To some extent, even the evening newscast is realizing now that it’s not about the exclusive, up-to-the-second thing that no one can digest, but it is about making sense of the day, or making sense of what’s just happened. The ability to which they can anchor the day or a particular moment of the day. Just think about it: 6:30 p.m., you come to the TV, you get to watch someone explain what we already know about. That’s something they really shouldn’t lose touch with the power of. The cycle of it, the time of the day, the sun’s going down, and here we are gathering. It’s so powerful, especially compared to this world where everything’s streaming, the non-stop news crawls, the feeds.
The Wall Street Journal has held onto a lot of what the nightly newscast provides, shockingly even with Murdoch at the helm. There’s this sense that they understand. There’s a periodicity to what they’re doing, so they stay anchored in time. The New York Times, on the other hand, it’s so hard to even comment on them, because there are so many New York Timeses happening simultaneously. It’s schizophrenic. I don’t even know how to consume it anymore.
BEEN: So, to put into context with your book, you think The Wall Street Journal can still provide a traditional narrative, which you view as being by and large collapsed in our digital world, whereas the Times no longer does?
RUSHKOFF: Yes! But that’s because the Times hasn’t quite sussed out what’s leading what. There’s too many different ways to consume it. I just feel like they haven’t distinguished between that which is fit to print and that which is part of the stream of whatever they have to keep up with.
BEEN: This makes me think about how you differentiate in the book between “stored information” and “flowing information.” That is, stored information being something that can be fully consumed, like a physical copy of The New York Times, whereas flowing is something that can’t be, like the @nytimes Twitter feed. You write: “When we attempt to pack the requirements of storage into media or flow, or to reap the benefits of flow from media that locks things into storage, we end up in present shock.” That seems to be a good description of what newspapers are currently grappling with.
RUSHKOFF: For sure. You just can’t use the newspaper to keep up in society any longer. And you can’t use live blogging to make sense of anything. This is digressing a bit, but I was just talking with my friend about rock concerts. And I said, “Why can’t I just be at the show and experience this thing? Why am I supposed to be recording it? Tweeting about it? Why am I assuming that responsibility? Is it even more fun?” No, we don’t all have to do that. And when you put your phone on your arm and have it vibrate every time something’s coming through, what are you? Are we air traffic controllers? Are we Associated Press emergency journalists? Why do we live at that heightened level of expectation and readiness? We don’t need to be there.
BEEN: You’re pretty hard on futurists who emerged in the 1990s, saying they “became less about predicting the future than pandering to those who sought to maintain an expired past.” Can you talk about what you mean there?
RUSHKOFF: When the digital renaissance first started to occur, it looked as if we were going to have a break from corporate capitalism. I then thought people are now going to exchange value directly and create value in decentralized ways. It looked like a true disruption. But the futurists who got in the headlines were ones who didn’t want to disrupt corporate capitalism, but ones who made predictions that would be the salvation for corporate capitalism. And a lot of this is what led to us using digital technology in a way where we’re trying to maximize the efficiency of humans rather than give us some slack.
BEEN: You write that you’re “much less concerned with whatever it is technology may be doing to people than what people are choosing to do to one another through technology.” Yet some media seems to fixate on the former. I have The Atlantic’s most recent issue in front of me and the cover story is about what tablets are “doing to toddler’s brains.” Why, in your mind, should we refocus on the latter?
RUSHKOFF: When we blame technology, it makes it seem as if we’re powerless to do anything and as if we’re not responsible. Your email is not doing anything to you. It’s a bunch of people who are doing something to you. They’re sending you all that damned email. Email doesn’t expect you to respond to it — the people who’ve sent you the email expect you to respond to it.
What I’m trying to do is replace the blame where the blame goes. Once we accept responsibility, we’re empowered to do something about it, to change the level of expectation that we have of our employees. There are employees who are supposed to sit there and live tweet and respond to everything for eight hours straight, and you wonder why that person’s fried. That person needs to be given the same kind of breaks that an air traffic controller gets. It’s unreasonable.
But no, it’s almost never the technology. Different technologies are biased to particular things — for example, guns are biased towards killing more than pillows are. But it’s still people — at the gun companies, shareholders of the gun companies, still human beings — that are responsible for the unnecessary proliferation of weapons into our society. The more we focus on the object, the less we can do as humans to change any of this.
BEEN: You conclude Present Shock by calling books “anachronistic.” But a lot of statistics show that reading books is not declining but rising. And people seem to still really care for longform journalism.
RUSHKOFF: There’s a fascination with books, the same way there’s a fascination with mid-century furniture that’s made in the United States by craftspeople or designed by Heywood Wakefield or something, as opposed to just going to Ikea or Walmart and getting something that was made in China.
So there is a reading or a word fetish, but today, longform is not a book. Today, longform is a 1,500-word article. Evan Williams has this online publishing platform called Medium, which is these little essays, but it’s longform compared to tweets or Facebook updates. In reality, if I write an 800-word piece on CNN, it goes up the day I wrote it and I reach a couple million people. With a book, it takes me two years to get it together and it takes a year for them to publish it. I’ve got to work like hell to even get 20,000 people to read the thing — or buy the thing, and half of them actually read it.
It does feel like I’m writing opera when people are buying singles or MP3s. And yeah, opera is on the rise too, people are going, but it doesn’t feel like a central cultural force. Especially books as “books.” There are more books today than ever, but most of them are kind of calling cards from startup consultants more than they are meant as books.
BEEN: Why write books, then?
RUSHKOFF: It’s partly how I was raised. But it’s also that there are certain kinds of arguments you can make in them that you can’t make in an article. Most books today aren’t even books, they’re these series of articles. People don’t have the stamina to write a real book anymore. I wanted to do two things. One, I wanted to say something that couldn’t be said in a list of bullet points. And second, it’s kind of a radical act in saying: “I’m giving two years of my human life to put together a single text artifact, and I’m going to request that you seize authority of five or six hours of your life so you can read it.” So a gateway to understanding present shock is to somehow figure out a way that you have five hours. Just in getting people to take that stand — five hours against the torrent of distractions — is itself an act against present shock.
On The Left: Books; On The Right: The Internet's e-Books, Etc...
The Debate For Books As Being Good, And The Internet As Better
With the arrival of the new technological gadgets and techniques, we have seen reading undergo a serious metamaphorsis that has pemanently changed and altered our reading habits. There are effects and affects of technology that make us who we are and what we do today. These are explained fully above by Rushkoff, but, when it comes to reading there are diverse and divergent views as to which is good: the book orthe Internet. On the Web site called Debate, here's a sample of these discussions:
""How can we keep on depending on books for everyday life? Books are definitely less easier to access than the internet. For example, all libraries have a closing time. So you can't just go there whenever you like. But as long as you have an internet connection and a device that can use the internet, you have unlimited access to the internet."
"Internet can provide you with a vast array of knowledge and history.
"Ofcoarse books give us the exact information we are looking for, and they are timeless. Meaning centuries from now they will most likely still be reading books we have read now. (albeit the new ed, etc) But the internet provides us with knowledge at our fingertips. Need to know sometime now to satisfy your intellectual curiosity? Ask google. If you don't like google their are other search engines that are more protected and trusted. Wikipedia is a treasure trove of knowledge. I know must of the stuff is peer edited but, it's also peer revised so for the most part the information is accurate. I once spent hours just looking up articles about quantum physics, Book's are great but you only learn from the writer and his experience/findings. With the internet you can learn from others more easily, which I believe is the best way to learn"
"Books are better Books are better because they provide us with efficient knowledge and information. They are easy to Cary around.In books you can find the exact knowledge whereas in the internet you can never find the exact knowledge because of extra information. And you can come across many things which are not good for us".
"Books are better because they have barely any negative aspects while the internet has so many! I like books so much and they are so easy to carry around! You won't have to worry about the power going out and you having nothing else to go to! Books all the way!."
"It’s simple: Books are better.
1-Ever try to read your Kindle or Nook in the tub? Well don’t. It’s terrifying. If you drop that thing it’ll be gone forever. Not to mention it fogs up from the steam. Accidentally drop your book in your bubbles? Blow dry it after! Good as new. Nothing to fear here, literature lovers.
2-We all fear that moment when the pilot asks us to kindly turn off all of our devices, don’t we? Of course you would only need to turn off your e-reader for a few minutes, but what if that’s the most tantalizing part of the book? Books don’t need to be put away ever. Read on, book buddy!
3-Unless you plan on collecting signatures on your Kindle, you’re not going to any book signings with your e-reader anytime soon. Autographed books make thoughtful and personal gifts. Authors are flattered to sign hard copies of their publications, but they can’t physically sign an e-book…
4-Of course finishing any book is rewarding, but closing the back cover of a thousand-page book (like Game of Thrones) feels SO much better than flicking your finger across a screen and discovering you’ve reached the end.
5-Pages may fall out and covers may get ripped, but books won’t just die on you. There is nothing more frustrating than getting to a juicy part of a story and having your e-reader’s battery die. Printed books won’t fail you.
"So there, it’s decided. Books are better than e-readers all day every day. They’re prettier, easier to manage, and provide us with stories without having to be powered up. Long live the printed word!"
"Surfing the Internet is not Better than Reading Books
"No, surfing the internet is not better than reading books. While the internet is certainly amazing and can provide tons of information and education, engaging one on one with a book is an experience like no other. It is an experience that cannot be replicated. Thus, surfing the internet is not better than reading a book."
"Internet stimulates the brain more than books Studies have shown that surfing the internet is as beneficial for the brain as doing crossword puzzles and stimulates the brain more than reading a books does. The study has only concluded for middle age and older people so far."
"The researchers said that, compared to simple reading, the internet's wealth of choices required people to make decisions about what to click on in order to get the relevant information."
Reading Altered From Book To Screen
I still buy books even in the digital age we all live in. I might buy some e-books, but I hope they have a long lasting battery to sustain my marathon readings. One thing I find very disturbing about the new e-books, is that I like reading several books at one time-and this helps in speeding up my researches. So that, with books, I am able to open and mark the pages and chapters I would like to touch up on or read. So that, If I have a Kindle or e-book gadget, I have to flip back and forth to the saved pages and chapters. Thus I say, I have a problem with the new book format.
The Analogic book that I grew up on, is an advantage for me, becasue Isince I bought each book, I have familiarity with it in a very unusual manner. The information that is adjacent and ahead of what I want from the book, is easily checkable and I can relate to it very fast. I think with the new divi-books, that will take that free-flowing that I have with old style books. This is important, whenever I want a certain book from my shelf, I know it by its cover color, it's style of lettering, size and find it precisley where I have shleved it. I cannot say much about the new digi=books, but am certain that the old style books gives me better access that I can relate to and utilize.
The other thing that stopping to read books has affected the readers is that, with scrolling and surfing, you begin to grow a tendency to pass over a lot of data, unlike with a bokk, I have to pay attention to the paragraphs, pages, citations(if is numbered, I can go to the end of the chapter and see the citation, or at the end of the book, very qickly by flipping the pages, or going directly to the suggessted citation.
One pernicious thing about surfing and scrolling is that it sabotages that point where the eye meets the word.. I find that it makes the eye rush through the material without having to dig deeper into the article or book, as in old style book. This has made a lot of people dyslexic, and as they read more from the screen, the discipline and experience brought about and garnered through reading a book is sacrificed, and progressivley lost-replaced by cognitivion and deliberate reading dissonance. I think that books are important and they should be bought and kept as has been the case over the Millennia...
The Internet Might Not Replace Books
I thnink I liked the following article as written by Sam Bluemfiled:
The Internet is very much like television in that it takes time away from other pursuits, provides entertainment and information, but in no way can compare with the warm, personal experience of reading a good book. This is not the only reason why the Internet will never replace books, for books provide the in-depth knowledge of a subject that sitting in front of a computer monitor cannot provide. We can download text from an Internet source, but the aesthetic quality of sheets of downloaded text leave much to be desired. A well-designed book enhances the reading experience.
The book is still the most compact and inexpensive means of conveying a dense amount of knowledge in a convenient package. The easy portability of the book is what makes it the most user-friendly format for knowledge ever invented. The idea that one can carry in one's pocket a play by Shakespeare, a novel by Charles Dickens or Tom Clancy, Plato's Dialogues, or the Bible in a small paperback edition is mind-boggling. We take such uncommon convenience for granted, not realizing that the book itself has undergone quite an evolution since the production of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 and Shakespeare's First Folio in 1623, just three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth to colonize the New World.
Not only has the art and craft of printing and book manufacturing been greatly improved over the centuries, but the great variety of subject matter now available in books is astounding, to say the least. In fact, the Internet requires the constant input of authors and their books to provide it with the information that makes it a useful tool for exploration and learning.
Another important reason why the Internet will never replace books is because those who wish to become writers want to see their works permanently published as books - something you can hold, see, feel, skim through, and read at one's leisure without the need for an electric current apart from a lamp. The writer may use a word processor instead of a typewriter or a pen and pad, but the finished product must eventually end up as a book if it is to have value to the reading public. The writer may use the Internet in the course of researching a subject just as he may use a library for that purpose, but the end product will still be a book.
What really imperils book reading is not the Internet, but the public schools that are dumbing down our citizens so that they cannot read books, let alone take advantage of the Internet. But more and more parents have become aware of the dumbing down process and are now homeschooling their children so that they can become the highly literate citizens of tomorrow. As long as parents still have the freedom to educate their own children as they see fit, the ruling elite will never be able to fully consolidate its control of all the people all of the time.
Rather than replace books, the Internet is now being used by distributors like Amazon and Barnes and Noble to sell more and more books to consumers on a global scale. And even though the Internet provides consumers with a much larger selection of books than is available in any one bookstore, it will never replace the bookstore where the reader can browse to his heart's content and now even settle down in an easy chair and read a book until closing time. The big new super bookstores now serve coffee and pastries, present live readings by authors, and stay open late. They are becoming cultural hubs in their communities. The computer monitor is therefore no match for a friendly bookstore.
Nor will the Internet ever replace the sheer enjoyment of browsing in an antiquarian book store or going to an antiquarian book fair and actually holding a book and leafing through pages printed over a hundred years ago. Books provide a bridge to the past, to all of those who have gone before us and have left us the wisdom accumulated by their life experiences. Books have that magical ability to bring the past to life through the words of those who lived in years gone by. If you want to truly know history, you must read the actual words of those who lived it, unabridged and unrevised by today's proponents of political correctness.
Books are also companions in a way that the Internet can never be. The author speaks to us directly through the pages. We hear his or her voice. If the story is compelling, it will become part of our own mentalities and provide us with an experience which we will have had through the author. We will have known what it was like to survive a concentration camp, or live the life of a great actress or statesman or musician, or suffer climbing Mount Everest, or rejoice in making a great scientific discovery. Each of us has only one life to live, but we can vicariously live a great many other lives through books written by other human beings. That is why the power of the book can never be replaced by the Internet.
That is not to say the Internet is any less than it is. The Internet, as it continues to grow, is certainly one of the most remarkable technological developments in the history of mankind. Its ability to connect us all with the entire world is what makes it so extraordinary. For example, you can read the morning's headlines or weather reports in Australian newspapers, explore the subway system in Buenos Aires, or locate a long-lost friend in the U.S. if he or she has a telephone. Through email you can communicate with anyone anywhere who also has an email address. You can even discuss the latest book you've read.
But will the Internet ever replace books? Not on your life.
Surfing The Internet Wave
Surfing the web 'sharpens brain more than reading a book'
What I find interesting about the following article is that it does not investigate nor talk/discuss the effects of using computers has on the person. My contention above is the fact the use of scrolling and surfing the web is detrimental to the reading efficiency on its users. I present this alternative view and defense of the fact that using the internet improves cognition. David Derbyshire for MailOnline wrote the following piece:
Scientists have shown that web browsing excites the brains of middle aged and elderly people more than reading a book.
The study suggests that using Google and other internet search engines could exercise the mind in a similar way to crossword puzzles, sudokus and "brain training" computer games.
The findings come from a study of 24 volunteers aged 55 to 76 at the University of California, Los Angeles who were asked to either search the web or read while their brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The scans monitor activity by measuring the flow of blood to parts of the brain.
Some of the volunteers were experienced web users while others were newcomers to computers.
The study found that readers and surfers both showed increased blood flow in parts of the brain controlling language, reading, vision and memory.
However, experienced web users showed increased activity in the parts of the brain dealing with complex reasoning and decision-making - such as the frontal, temporal and cingulate brain areas - when searching the internet.
Professor Gary Small, from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at UCLA, said: "Our most striking finding was that internet searching appears to engage a greater extent of neural circuitry that is not activated during reading - but only in those with prior internet experience."
The research, due to appear in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, that those with the most internet experience had twice the brain activity as the rest of the volunteers.
"The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerised technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults, said Prof Small.
"A simple, everyday task like searching the Web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older."
Less experienced web users could show similar boosts to brain activity with practice, he said.
"With more time on the internet, they may demonstrate the same brain activation patterns as the more experienced group," he added.
Some researchers and computer games companies believe that "mental workouts" can improve concentration and help prevent dementia and memory loss.
They recommend mental arithmetic tests, sudoku and word games as a way of keeping the brain sharp.
"Book" Here Is Used As A Pun...
The Internet Is The Extension Of The Book
The way I look at is is as follows: I think that both books and the Internet should be used to complement one another.There are benefits that accrue and improve the mind that David above points out to acording to his research. Also, the article by Sam Blumfield makes a point too that's worth preserving and paying attention to.
I say this becasue I use many different books[as in reading them] to create my research articles. So that, what I get from the Internet in an instant, I can go long and deep into a book and find some things that I would have missed becasue the scrolling and iterate surfing through the viral streaming soup, affects my writing, in a way that books give me a sense of the logenvity and patience I put into reading a book and into writing an article.
Then there are those points that I would like to make, without having to type for a long time, by surfing the net and getting articles or queotes, pictures, and many other vignettes, etc., which adds to the pace and speed/cohesion/flow and tightness of my article and of my writing and creating the article. So, that, the book and the internet, acoording to my postulations, should be made to work in tandem, becasue, coming from a writer's/researcher's perspective, for me, it is a plus and a boon-to have access to both books and the Web to splurge and dig into..
Whilst The Internet Is Good; Books Are Still The Best
Is Streamin The Web Reading...
Books: Reading - Internet: Streaming
Angela Watson wrote the following article:
Hours spent reading books in the past month: 20
Hours spent reading on the internet in the past month: 120
These are troubling personal statistics from a former voracious book fiend. I taught myself to read at age 4. I read Judy Blume’s entire collection of books in one month when I was 7. As a teenager, I heard my father say countless times, “There’s Ang, with her nose stuck in a book again”. Books have been my solace, my escape, my source of wisdom, and my fiercest passion throughout college and a few years beyond.
And then came the internetz.
The realization of it’s power dawned on me slowly. So, anything I want to know can be uncovered in seconds via a search engine? And…I can connect with strangers halfway around the world? You mean, I can type a few sentences and voila, my words are immortalized for the entire planet to see? Really--all this for a dial-up phone connection and $29.99 a month? For a person who loves sharing and acquiring knowledge, this was surely the greatest invention of all time.
Then I got a laptop. The internet, in bed!
Then I got high-speed modem. The internet, in triple time!
Then I got a better laptop. The internet, light-weight with longer battery life!
Then I got wireless access. The internet, in my kitchen, on my balcony, by my pool!
Then I got an even better laptop. Dual processor, 17 inch screen, built-in webcam!
Then I got a MacBook. ‘Nuff said.
Then I got an iTouch. The internet, in my pocket! I tremble at the thought.
And now in 2009 I must reluctantly conclude that going online has replaced reading a book as my favorite past time.
It isn’t hard to understand why only the rare book can still capture my interest for prolonged periods. The computer keeps getting faster and more powerful, and is virtually unlimited in its ability to provide up-to-the-minute information. The book is nearly the same as it was thousands of years ago. The book has gone essentially unchanged.
But I haven’t.
I want to interact with text, and books frustrate me in that regard. When I read a controversial self-help book, I want to click on ‘comments’ to see how others responded. When I read a really compelling (or really weak) novel, I desperately want to visit Amazon to see how well it’s selling and read other people’s reviews. Even when I read the Bible, that ageless classic text, I find myself wanting to click on ‘show alternate translation’ to see how the phrase reads in the original language or in a loosely-interpreted version, and I’m compelled to compare how classic commentators and contemporary thinkers reflect on scriptural truths.
I want to follow embedded links, see related posts, and access recommended reading immediately. I want to find the origin of an idiom. I want to Google unfamiliar cultural references. I want to search for other authors who have written on the same topic and gain their perspectives.
Put together, these instincts comprise the quintessential picture of a good reader. I’m making text connections, summarizing, comparing and contrasting, utilizing research and reference tools, analyzing charts and graphs and maps. I’m an enthusiastic, purposeful reader who takes charge of her learning.
So what’s the problem? Clearly the issue is not that I’ve stopped reading. Nor am I concerned that I’m wasting my time surfing from one meaningless website or pointless online game to another. I don’t use social media at all (the audacity of refusing to join Facebook or MySpace!). My time on the computer is spent either writing (this blog, my other blog, my website, and email) or it’s spent reading…and each activity fuels and inspires the next. It’s an integrated and intuitive process that I’ve been following–and simultaneously denying–for years.
Most of the online text I consume is high-quality, well-written nonfiction. I subscribe to over 200 blogs in my Google Reader and empty most of the folders daily. That’s at least 90 minutes a day of reading about what’s new in education and world events, and 30 minutes of reading about spirituality, fashion, celeb news, and random humor on blogs that are exceptionally well-composed and inspiring to me as a writer. These blogs (even the shallow ones), accompanied by a variety of websites and my numerous daily Google searches, lead me to all sorts of new information that challenge the way I perceive myself and the world around me.
I’m reading carefully chosen content that satisfies me and enriches my life. So why, instead of feeling well-informed, do I lament losing my passion for books? Why do I feel as though the internet offers a cheapened version of knowledge, the Wal-Mart of intellectualism?
I’m not the only one. Sarah at The Reading Zone has an excellent post about how students don’t count the internet (along with magazines and other authentic texts) as ‘real reading’. Just like me, the kids have convinced themselves that they are only improving their reading skills and experiencing real learning when it comes from books. After all, you READ a book. You GO ON the internet. You SURF the internet. Surfing is not reading. The Internet is the laid-back, less authoritative version of its more respectable cousin, Real Literature.
Those nagging feelings of doubt about the validity of reading online compete fiercely with the part of me which enjoys it so deeply. I hear an undeniable internal voice that demands an answer: Who says that someone’s writing is inherently more valuable just because it’s in a book?
I suppose I know there is no substitute for the artful weaving of a lengthy narrative or the depth of information that a book can offer. (If there was, I never would have published one myself.) And there is no substitute for the feeling of a real book in my hands as I settle in on a long flight, or bury myself under the covers after a stressful day. So I continue to fall into old habits, checking out innumerable books from the library and renewing them to their max as they pile up on my nightstand only partially read. I look over at the stack longingly and guiltily, remembering the days when I would devour the pile in a matter of hours. And I force myself to read them.
But maybe I wouldn’t have to force myself to read books if I stopped requiring myself to read the way I did when I was younger: curled up in a cozy chair, totally absorbed in the text.
Maybe I would enjoy books more if I allowed myself to read in a way that makes sense to me now: sprawled on the daybed with my MacBook opened beside me, poised to research at any moment.
Maybe reading books wouldn’t feel like a chore if I gave myself permission to take a month to read a book that I am capable of finishing in a day.
Maybe I’d be more excited if my goal wasn’t to get through the whole book so I could get on to the next one, and it was to instead just experience the book.
Maybe if I gave myself permission to read a book and the internet together, I would solve both of my problems: I would value the information on the internet more highly and I would regain my enthusiasm for the old-fashioned book.
I’m tired of feeling guilty for being on the internet too much and neglecting my books. The world has changed and I have, too. This is my manifesto of maybes, and it’s where I stand for now. Tonight I’m going to make myself a cup of tea and curl up with a good book and my laptop. Probably with some chocolate, too (I can eat with the left hand and scroll with the right). I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be, for me. And I’m going to keep doing it that way until I truly give myself permission to just enjoy READING, in any format that interests me.
How a book really can change your life: Brain function improves for DAYS after reading a novel Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-25298
Our Thinking, reading and Mulling over Issues Has been Adversely Affected By Google
A professor friend of mine the othr day spoke to me on the phone and told me that he was in his office for consultation with students about various issues and internships. He has been doing this type of a job for many years since he became a professor. Now, he told me, nowawadays he sits alone in his office and no one come. His students do not do a 'walk-in' to talk to him, he complained, mildly, but serious, he said theynow text him or use a video calls/sometimes, e-mails(this one rarely too). He told me that he misses seeing their faces and feeling their presence, and the job has become now more lonely and unfulfilling.
Just As I have been pointing out in the Hub above how the Internet has affected Book-reading, I found the article by Nicholas Carr having an even more direct bearing as to my theme and thesis of this Hub. in an Article titled:
"Is Google Making Us Stupid?", wherein he continues to write the following lengthy artile:
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial “ brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”
I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets’reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”
Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”
Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition. But a recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it. The authors of the study report:
It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.
Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.
Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains. Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese, develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet. The variations extend across many regions of the brain, including those that govern such essential cognitive functions as memory and the interpretation of visual and auditory stimuli. We can expect as well that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works.
Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter—a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The typewriter rescued him, at least for a time. Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers. Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.
But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”
Living With a Computer (July 1982)
"The process works this way. When I sit down to write a letter or start the first draft of an article, I simply type on the keyboard and the words appear on the screen..." By James Fallows
“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler , Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”
The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind “is very plastic.” Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. “The brain,” according to Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.”
As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our “intellectual technologies”—the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities—we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies. The mechanical clock, which came into common use in the 14th century, provides a compelling example. In Technics and Civilization, the historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford described how the clock “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The “abstract framework of divided time” became “the point of reference for both action and thought.”
The clock’s methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man. But it also took something away. As the late MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum observed in his 1976 book, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, the conception of the world that emerged from the widespread use of timekeeping instruments “remains an impoverished version of the older one, for it rests on a rejection of those direct experiences that formed the basis for, and indeed constituted, the old reality.” In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock.
The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.
The Internet promises to have particularly far-reaching effects on cognition. In a paper published in 1936, the British mathematician Alan Turing proved that a digital computer, which at the time existed only as a theoretical machine, could be programmed to perform the function of any other information-processing device. And that’s what we’re seeing today. The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.
When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.
The Net’s influence doesn’t end at the edges of a computer screen, either. As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets. When, in March of this year, TheNew York Times decided to devote the second and third pages of every edition to article abstracts , its design director, Tom Bodkin, explained that the “shortcuts” would give harried readers a quick “taste” of the day’s news, sparing them the “less efficient” method of actually turning the pages and reading the articles. Old media have little choice but to play by the new-media rules.
Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives—or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts—as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that’s been written about the Net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us. The Net’s intellectual ethic remains obscure.
About the same time that Nietzsche started using his typewriter, an earnest young man named Frederick Winslow Taylor carried a stopwatch into the Midvale Steel plant in Philadelphia and began a historic series of experiments aimed at improving the efficiency of the plant’s machinists. With the approval of Midvale’s owners, he recruited a group of factory hands, set them to work on various metalworking machines, and recorded and timed their every movement as well as the operations of the machines. By breaking down every job into a sequence of small, discrete steps and then testing different ways of performing each one, Taylor created a set of precise instructions—an “algorithm,” we might say today—for how each worker should work. Midvale’s employees grumbled about the strict new regime, claiming that it turned them into little more than automatons, but the factory’s productivity soared.
More than a hundred years after the invention of the steam engine, the Industrial Revolution had at last found its philosophy and its philosopher. Taylor’s tight industrial choreography—his “system,” as he liked to call it—was embraced by manufacturers throughout the country and, in time, around the world. Seeking maximum speed, maximum efficiency, and maximum output, factory owners used time-and-motion studies to organize their work and configure the jobs of their workers. The goal, as Taylor defined it in his celebrated 1911 treatise, The Principles of Scientific Management, was to identify and adopt, for every job, the “one best method” of work and thereby to effect “the gradual substitution of science for rule of thumb throughout the mechanic arts.” Once his system was applied to all acts of manual labor, Taylor assured his followers, it would bring about a restructuring not only of industry but of society, creating a utopia of perfect efficiency. “In the past the man has been first,” he declared; “in the future the system must be first.”
Taylor’s system is still very much with us; it remains the ethic of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual lives, Taylor’s ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well. The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient and automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the “one best method”—the perfect algorithm—to carry out every mental movement of what we’ve come to describe as “knowledge work.”
Google’s headquarters, in Mountain View, California—the Googleplex—is the Internet’s high church, and the religion practiced inside its walls is Taylorism. Google, says its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, is “a company that’s founded around the science of measurement,” and it is striving to “systematize everything” it does. Drawing on the terabytes of behavioral data it collects through its search engine and other sites, it carries out thousands of experiments a day, according to the Harvard Business Review, and it uses the results to refine the algorithms that increasingly control how people find information and extract meaning from it. What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind.
The company has declared that its mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It seeks to develop “the perfect search engine,” which it defines as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” In Google’s view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers.
Where does it end? Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the gifted young men who founded Google while pursuing doctoral degrees in computer science at Stanford, speak frequently of their desire to turn their search engine into an artificial intelligence, a HAL-like machine that might be connected directly to our brains. “The ultimate search engine is something as smart as people—or smarter,” Page said in a speech a few years back. “For us, working on search is a way to work on artificial intelligence.” In a 2004 interview with Newsweek, Brin said, “Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” Last year, Page told a convention of scientists that Google is “really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale.”
Such an ambition is a natural one, even an admirable one, for a pair of math whizzes with vast quantities of cash at their disposal and a small army of computer scientists in their employ. A fundamentally scientific enterprise, Google is motivated by a desire to use technology, in Eric Schmidt’s words, “to solve problems that have never been solved before,” and artificial intelligence is the hardest problem out there. Why wouldn’t Brin and Page want to be the ones to crack it?
Still, their easy assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by an artificial intelligence is unsettling. It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.
The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.
Maybe I’m just a worrywart. Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).
The arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press, in the 15th century, set off another round of teeth gnashing. The Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men “less studious” and weakening their minds. Others argued that cheaply printed books and broadsheets would undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery. As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, “Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.” But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver.
So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.
If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture. In a recent essay, the playwright Richard Foreman eloquently described what’s at stake:
I come from a tradition of Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. [But now] I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self—evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available.”
As we are drained of our “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance,” Foreman concluded, we risk turning into “‘pancake people’—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.”
I’m haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.