Day: September 9, 2006

Books aint broke

I love talking

It’s one of my failings. Some people might say that I love the sound of my own voice. The truth is that discussion and debate excite me. They get me thinking.

The kind of discussion I like best is one where my premise is challenged and I am either forced to rethink my position or defend it. I love being shown to be wrong. Yes it can be slightly embarrassing but it is also a wonderful experience to be honestly forced to consider someone else position.

What is even better (and largely the reason for this post) is when someone says something that has been in your mind but you have not put into concrete terms. That happened the other day when someone commenting on my blog said:

Technology is going to wrap itself around books not the other way around!

That seems innocuous but it isn’t it’s actually a very interesting concept. The reality that can be missed in the daily grind of comment on the demise of print and the rise of digital is that the technology that is proven to last, proven to work, proven to sell and works everywhere is ink on paper.

Digital still has a lot to prove

And it is not just that it has a lot to prove, it has to figure out so many thing as it matures that each stage is going to seem like a new era. For all the challenges of physical existence books are a superb piece of technology and they have survived huge changes and tumults over the millennia. When my blog can be retrieved by a researcher in a thousand years for examination and be a useful tool in describing my reality to people with a completely different experience of reality, then I will believe digital can replace physical books.

So the wrapping part?

Well companies try to make digital work in the place of books they come up with concepts like IRex’s Illiad and the Sony E-Reader. E-readers based on the E-ink technology e-paper. Companies know that in order for digital books to be successful they have to mimic physical print. Of course they cannot currently and they are trying to re-invent the wheel. Sometimes it depresses me a little.

But the logic of the statement is clear and brilliant. Companies are wrapping themselves around books and they are trying to become books. They are the ones trying to prove themselves. Books have nothing left to prove and even if some years from now digital books make the shift they need, then books will still remain invaluable. If you doubt that this interview with Seth Godin is worth re-reading.