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David Lee King

Someone Doesn’t Know Me Too Well



Just received a comment on one of my posts, “Luddites have XML Feeds, too!” … from, of course “Annonymous.” Here’s the comment:

I think, also, it is important to point out to those who are concerned about disappearing printed materials that the rise of new media/technology (radio, television, telephone, phonograph, audio and video cassettes, cds, dvds, etc.) has never supplanted all of our old and familiar means of transmitting and storing information. The printed book will likely outlast every new innovation in technology simply because it is an irreplaceable part of human culture. There is no need for fear mongering or even mild concern. Luddites should sit back and relax. Once upon a time, the written word was considered an innovation beyond the spoken word. We all still talk to each other, however.

Hmm… where to start? First, my take on the printed book. A Book is a large body of text. Paper is one of many ways to display that large body of text. Books used to be stored on leather scrolls. Thankfully, people figured out bound paper worked better.

I think we’re seeing the beginning of moving away from paper to electronic form. I can now read a book in paper, on my PDA, on a cell phone, at my PC, in email form, using an e-book reader, etc. It’s still a book – just not in paper.

Now, to deal with the comment itself:

“…the rise of new media/technology (radio, television, telephone, phonograph, audio and video cassettes, cds, dvds, etc.) has never supplanted all of our old and familiar means of transmitting and storing information.”

I wonder if Anonymous has heard of a relatively new-fangled invention called an Online Public Access Catalog? I believe the OPAC has supplanted the “old and familiar means,” don’t you think? Also, the typewriter has been supplanted by the computer.

And… does the printed word actually “transmit?” That I’d like to see.

“The printed book will likely outlast every new innovation in technology simply because it is an irreplaceable part of human culture.”

Hmm… “irreplaceable part of human culture” …. that’d be sorta like:

  • Horses and carriages
  • morse code
  • LPs
  • Cowhide and pottery shards for writing material
  • Pants that ended at the knee
  • Plows
  • Swords as weapons

NOTHING IS IRREPLACEABLE. Longlasting, yes. Irreplaceable? No.

“There is no need for fear mongering or even mild concern.” and “Luddites should sit back and relax.”

Hey, I actually agree…

“Once upon a time, the written word was considered an innovation beyond the spoken word. We all still talk to each other, however.”

Apples and oranges… apples and oranges… Annonymous, the point of your comment is about paper-based information, so you can’t logically use the spoken word as support for your argument.

I have had fun with this comment, to be sure. But I’m hoping someone learns something from this post, too. As I once heard someone say, “eat the meat, and throw out the bones.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous

    I certainly didn’t intend to spar with you. I don’t see these comments as some kind of game and I didn’t really want to go to the trouble of registering or logging in or whatever. I don’t know you at all, yes, and didn’t plan on doing a whole lot of research into your ideas on this blog. I simply wanted to point out that this fear of change (i.e. the Luddites who worry over new technologies supplanting what they have become familar with) was unnecessary since the book was such an integral part of our culture. My comment was not intended to disagree with the tenor of your earlier comments. I think you and I might agree on most of these issues given a different venue (actual conversation). I probably overstated my case, but I was focusing on the book in print as something that will likely never go away. I still see horses and buggies here and there and I still see bookbinders who use older materials to create beautiful leather-bound volumes. These things may not be in wide usage–that would be quite impractical. But one might say it was still a bit impractical to try and read a monograph on a cell phone. Humans respond to objects in a very physical manner. The print book is a warm, familiar, ergonomically comfortable object. Technology is continually attempting to simulate it, but there is a point at which you have to ask yourself–how practical is this pursuit? I’m not arguing at all against the lovely open and free access to information people have in the digital realm, but I do think that it may never replace the relatively cheap and ergonomically friendly form of a book. Why would we want to go to all that trouble when we may very well have the best possible means of storing something like a novel and making it easily accessible to so many people? Why does Barnes and Noble open up a new store every time I turn around? Many of the trappings of our history seem to ride along with us into our present and our future. I have a feeling that print books will be there. Pants that end at the knee? Not so sure.

  • Anonymous

    I certainly didn’t intend to spar with you. I don’t see these comments as some kind of game and I didn’t really want to go to the trouble of registering or logging in or whatever. I don’t know you at all, yes, and didn’t plan on doing a whole lot of research into your ideas on this blog. I simply wanted to point out that this fear of change (i.e. the Luddites who worry over new technologies supplanting what they have become familar with) was unnecessary since the book was such an integral part of our culture. My comment was not intended to disagree with the tenor of your earlier comments. I think you and I might agree on most of these issues given a different venue (actual conversation). I probably overstated my case, but I was focusing on the book in print as something that will likely never go away. I still see horses and buggies here and there and I still see bookbinders who use older materials to create beautiful leather-bound volumes. These things may not be in wide usage–that would be quite impractical. But one might say it was still a bit impractical to try and read a monograph on a cell phone. Humans respond to objects in a very physical manner. The print book is a warm, familiar, ergonomically comfortable object. Technology is continually attempting to simulate it, but there is a point at which you have to ask yourself–how practical is this pursuit? I’m not arguing at all against the lovely open and free access to information people have in the digital realm, but I do think that it may never replace the relatively cheap and ergonomically friendly form of a book. Why would we want to go to all that trouble when we may very well have the best possible means of storing something like a novel and making it easily accessible to so many people? Why does Barnes and Noble open up a new store every time I turn around? Many of the trappings of our history seem to ride along with us into our present and our future. I have a feeling that print books will be there. Pants that end at the knee? Not so sure.

  • Bo

    I do not recall when the last time I saw a book in daylight needing an electrical outlet. Tools come in different forms. I still would not want to be stabbed with a sword. Sure the gun is better, unless you do not have bullets. The point is both can coexist and serve a useful purpose.

  • Bo

    I do not recall when the last time I saw a book in daylight needing an electrical outlet. Tools come in different forms. I still would not want to be stabbed with a sword. Sure the gun is better, unless you do not have bullets. The point is both can coexist and serve a useful purpose.