Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Books Are Dead?

The thing that gets me about the whole notion that books are dead is the underlying presupposition that somehow books are "old fashioned" and, therefore, obsolete.

In my opinion, this is a crock of whoey. It is true that books are old technology; but just because a technology is old, doesn't necessarily mean that its obsolete. Look at the wheel: its been around for centuries, and just about the only thing that's changed are the way the wheel is made. It is a "terminal technology," that is, one that has evolved to the end of it's logical development. It can't really be improved upon.

So, too, with the book. It is a technology that is perfectly adapted to contain, preserve and distribute information. Books that were printed 400 years ago, providing they haven't been burned, soaked or otherwise abused, are just as fresh and usable as they were on the day they were printed. The bindings usually go before the pages. A book preserves the information that the author has created in the order s/he created it, and nothing short of mutilation will disturb that order. A book requires no intervening technology for operation. You simply open it up in proper light and it works. The only upgrade that may need to be performed on it may be re-binding. It is easy to read and a snap to transfer. It may take a few days to get a book from one coast to the other, but not much more than that!

Am I saying that computers aren't useful? By no means. I simply mean to say that computers aren't replacing books. They can't because they really aren't a competing technology. Just because computers can display letters and words, there is no reason to make the logical leap that "books are dead." Computers can display paintings, yet no one (that I'm aware of anyway) is proposing that "art is dead." Computers can certainly do many wonderful things that books can't, but the reverse is also true.

The main thing that computers can do that books can't is that they can index and sort the content of books in ways that formerly were unfathomable. But once a computer is used to identify books, articles, etc., users usually aren't content to end there: they will usually look for a hard copy of the item. They'll either print it out or go to the library or bookstore and obtain a copy of it.

3 comments:

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Henry said...

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