James Gleick has an intriguing essay in this Sunday’s NY Times, How to Publish Without Perishing. Although I’m an aspiring author, I’ve always thought that Google’s efforts to make millions of books available online was a great thing. Yes, copyright should be protected (published authors, please note: if I can read excerpts of your book in a bookstore, why can’t I also do it online?). What gets me excited about having access to so many books is: (1) the ability to search and find information much faster than I can thumbing through indexes; and (2) the opportunity to read those books currently out of print (which also makes me wish there were more “print on demand”-type books so I wouldn’t have to succumb to slogging through Amazon’s penny pile to find a beat-up copy of what I want.) And technology (i.e., reading online) will never take the place of the book that we’ve known and loved since Gutenberg. Computers are not designed for close reading, which is probably the real reason most web-based content is short, easily consumed in less than a minute. Ebook devices such as the Kindle or the now-defunct Gemstar (one of which I still own) are great if you’re on a long trip and want to have your library with you. I haven’t tried the Kindle as yet, but I’ve done quite a bit of reading on my old Gemstar (Jarhead, no less). But when I’m home, with the luxury of curling up on my couch for a quiet evening, there’s nothing better than a book, preferably, hard cover.
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