Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Feed me.

A couple of weeks ago, in the aftermath of telling Alan Kaufman to do a not very nice thing to himself, I asked him to name names of the "high-tech propagandists" who tell us that we will be better off without books. I found one:

. . . the techies in Silicon Valley are giving us powerful new tools for telling stories. Scary because the old ways of telling stories are about to become obsolete, and if we cling to them, we'll be washed away. In the past we've all worked in silos. "Print people" had one way of describing the world. "Video people" had another. But the silos are getting crunched together. It's as if for most of your life you could get by speaking only English, but now you need to learn a bunch of other old languages, and, what's more, you must then master a new language that is evolving out of the DNA of all the old ones.

Newsweek journalist Dan Lyons is primarily speaking about news-delivery here, but he does lump in book reading along with all the other exciting things that full-time connection to the Internet is going to give us: "these devices will play video and music and, of course, display text; they will let you navigate by touching your fingers to the screen; and—this is most important—they will be connected to the Internet at all times." Coming from a generation that was always admonished to turn out the light when leaving a room, I do wonder who is going to pay for the apparently unproblematic necessity for lots and lots of electricity. And as for being connected to the Internet at all times--Alan, pass me a pitchfork.

14 comments:

Jill Murray said...

Not to mention the server farms... the ginormous heat-emitting server farms...

Jeanie W said...

And when an e-reader dies, what kinds of toxins does it release into the landfill?

Andy Laties said...

And the horrible "resource wars" in Central Africa to feed the insatiable appetite of electronic devices for obscure metals.

Marie Devers said...

I imagine the cost of electricity will be included in the price of the e-book, nook, or vook--in other words, the consumer will pay.

Nothing new there. What scares me is that Wal-mart will be able to reach even more people with their $9 Wal-mart-approved books, which will one day be packed with product placement for Wal-mart-approved wares readers can buy with a click.

I'm pretty sure Feed would not be Wal-mart approved--unless Anderson changed all of his made-up product names to sponsored links.

Alan Kaufman said...

Roger,
I'd like as well to make amends for unkind thimgs I said. And actually,I think your bowtie
is quite handsome.
Enclosed essay, "The Book Is Dead, Long Live The Book" makes the argument-- and I quote-- that "We have to kill the book to save the book". It is typical of what I'm speaking about and is blogged on Business Week. There are so many examples of this, I'm rather surprised they've escaped your notice. It is increasingly the predominant discourse. Books, among this crowd, are described disdainfully as "Dead Trees" or "Dead Trees bound between covers".
Enter Silicon Valley, which is fast becoming the economic hub of 21st Century Economics, talk to people about the future of paper books: you'll see what I mean.
Again, thanks for your last entry.
With regards,
Alan Kaufman

Here's the essay:
http://www.buzzmachine.com/2006/05/19/the-book-is-dead-long-live-the-book/

The book is dead. Long live the book.
by Jeff Jarvis

Melinda said...

Resist the Feed!

melanie hope greenberg said...

I worry about the students I meet in the inner city. They cannot afford computers, what will they read?

Anonymous said...

As someone in their 20s, I can tell you that my friends and I often wonder how much more we could have achieved were we not constantly distracted by the goddamned internet. As much as we love it, we wonder what we might have done with all the time spent looking at youtube. As for being connected to the internet all the time, I've seen what it does to iphone junkies, and it's not pretty!
Sue

Roger Sutton said...

Wow, Alan, that is really horrifying, even though his argument has holes one could drive a truck through. Thanks for pointing it out.

Andy Laties said...

In that Buzz Machine blogpost, Jeff Jarvis makes a fascinating statement amid his insulting comments about books: He says that he is soon going to write a book himself! In other words, book publishing evidently still does some things that he himself considers important.

What hypocrisy! Why would anyone read and pay heed to such internally contradictory commentary? And yet, as Alan essentially is suggesting, people will pay attention to him indeed! And I seriously doubt that Jarvis will forego the author advance, royalty payments, author interviews on the radio, citations by other writers, and classroom adoptions that will be the possible outcomes of his writing a book about how The Book Is Dead.

Melinda said...

I also worry about the folks who can't afford all these devices. The national guidelines for poverty haven't been revised since 1955, so there are a lot more poor folks out there than we'd like to believe. These are hard times; library use is up. Looks to me like the book still lives.

Sherman Alexie rants about Kindles -- I agree with him of COURSE. http://bit.ly/4gQFLj

Word verification: brapp: the sound of all my hot air.

Alan Kaufman said...

It would seem that my hunch that the war against the book amounts to an actual crime is not far off...and I believe that as travel further into this heart of darkness, to uncover and discover all its implications, we will see that it's not simply a crime of business standards violation but as I allege in my essay, an actual crime against humanity.

Booksellers Ask Justice Department To Investigate War Over Pricing---from the Wall Street Journal

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703816204574489891863465178.html?mod=wsj_share_facebook

Melinda said...

Here's the Canadian take on the deep-discounting going on in America: They're against it, God bless 'em.

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/715182--why-the-book-price-wars-haven-t-come-to-canada

Word verification: defics, which I take to mean "depicts" and "defies." I get some real doozies.

Andy Laties said...

Well I think the American Booksellers Association's letter to the DOJ happens in context of decades of activism against monopolism in the arena of consumer activity. So, I disagree with Alan that there is something new happening with the current round of price wars. It's a longstanding battle and shouldn't be thought of as criminal in a human rights sense. (I am on the same side in the battle as Alan of course.) It's a battle about homogenization of culture. Not the same as genocide, because those affected (like me as an independent bookstore owner who's operated four different stores) do not get physically killed when our stores die. I am alive. I continue to help open and operate new bookstores whenever I get the chance, which happens regularly. People still want to see new bookstores open in their neighborhood. (Hurrah for the brand new and brilliant Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn!)

For instance this article below compares the anti-chain store movement of the1990s (and more recently too) with a previous anti-chain store movement in the 1930s that actually resulted in the passage of the laws now being drawn on in our current battles (such as the Robinson Patman Act). So -- it's been a cyclical thing. We are fighting. It's not by any means a done deal that independent voices will lose.

"The Anti-Chain Store Movement and the Politics of Consumption"
http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/american_quarterly/v060/60.4.scroop.html