I Have Nothing Against Books

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So says Jeff Jarvis, is his blog post entitled, “The book is dead. Long live the book.”

“The problems with books are many: They are frozen in time without the means of being updated and corrected. They have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources. They create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader. They try to teach readers but don’t teach authors. They tend to be too damned long because they have to be long enough to be books. As David Weinberger taught me, they limit how knowledge can be found because they have to sit on a shelf under one address; there’s only way way to get to it. They are expensive to produce. They depend on scarce shelf space. They depend on blockbuster economics. They can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches. They are subject to gatekeepers’ whims. They aren’t searchable. They aren’t linkable. They have no metadata. They carry no conversation. They are thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore. Print is where words go to die.”

Whenever a new technology is introduced, we tend to think “replacement.” But this is rarely true. Caroline, one of the commenters on Mr. Jarvis’ blog says,

“Why do people still play the trumpet, the violin or the oboe when synthesizers and sampling technology have been around for at least 30 years? There must be something to these “obsolete” technologies that compel people to devote their lives to them. Similarly, the book is not dead because it provides benefits, tangible and intangible, to readers.”

Perhaps new technologies serve to magnify the intrinsic value of the thing that came before. In an age when information is instant, dynamic and searchable, what is the intrinsic value of the book? Here’s a first cut at a top ten list (but please send your ideas):
Eileen’s Top Ten Reasons Why Books are Even More Valuable in a Wired World

  1. Everyone needs a little analog in their life
  2. Human readable. No technology upgrades required.
  3. Wonderfully tactile
  4. Immersive experience
  5. Shareable and giftable (difficult to “gift” a site)
  6. Well understood organizing principle
  7. People buy books (but rarely content)
  8. They’re beautiful artifacts
  9. No batteries required
  10. You can spill stuff on them and they still work

Like Jeff Jarvis, I have nothing against books either.

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One Comment

  1. Adding another reason books are more valuable …
    11. You can read a book in the tub and not risk electric shock.

      August 4, 2006 – 5:32 pm   Permalink

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