Skip to main content

Nicholas Negroponte: The Physical Book Is Dead In 5 Years

Today at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo sat down with a panel including Bill Joy, Kevin Kelly, Nicholas Negroponte, and 
Willie Smits. The topic was basically the future of technology. And Negroponte had the most interesting (or at least the most controversial) thing to say.

The physical book is dead, according to Negroponte. He said he realizes that’s going to be hard for a lot of people to accept. But you just have to think about film and music. In the 1980s, the writing was on the wall that physical film was going to die, even though companies like Kodak were in denial. He then asked people to think about their youth with music. It was all physical then. Now everything has changed.

The biggest issue with this, and not that I dispute it's happening, is the tremendous potential for abuse of control of access to books. We all should have seen this coming, but when makes a deal with a large publisher that their books will only be available on the Kindle ( it's rather scary to follow that pattern to its logical end.

Unless we figure out how to address the rise of e-books from the standpoint of public libraries, this is absolutely horrible for society at large. If Amazon controls some books, you better believe Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, and other e-reader vendors are looking at doing the same thing.

People shouldn't have to have four different e-book readers to have access to all the books available in the world. And what about those who can't afford *any* e-book readers? Are they just out of luck?

Every time I go to my local library I'm always excited to see all the people there, particularly parents with young children who can't get enough of reading. If this all changes because greedy corporations make exclusive deals with all the world's publishers, we as a society have failed in a huge, huge way, and we'll absolutely have a day of reckoning at some point in the not-too-distant future.


Matthew Woodward said…
Just came across this--it's starting already:
Anonymous said…
Wow . . . this library closing is extreme, but then Camden is an extreme case. My aunt and uncle (actually, my great aunt and uncle) moved to Camden back when the factories were still running, after WWII. The city started declining sometime in the late 70s when the factories had started closing. It got so bad in their neighborhood that they sold their house and moved to a retirement home near their daughter. There was a lot of mismanagement by the people who were supposed to be running the city system. So, I'm not surprised that it's come to this point.
Matthew Woodward said…
Right--I think there are multiple factors that will be pressuring libraries moving forward. The case in Camden seems to be budgetary in nature (and how we as a society choose to spend our money is a whole 'nother topic for discussion), but between budgets and the fundamental change in definition of what a "book" is, I fear for the future.

Popular posts from this blog

Installing and Configuring NextPVR as a Replacement for Windows Media Center

If you follow me on Google+ you'll know I had a recent rant about Windows Media Center, which after running fine for about a year suddenly decided as of January 29 it was done downloading the program guide and by extension was therefore done recording any TV shows.

I'll spare you more ranting and simply say that none of the suggestions I got (which I appreciate!) worked, and rather than spending more time figuring out why, I decided to try something different.

NextPVR is an awesome free (as in beer, not as in freedom unfortunately ...) PVR application for Windows that with a little bit of tweaking handily replaced Windows Media Center. It can even download guide data, which is apparently something WMC no longer feels like doing.

Background I wound up going down this road in a rather circuitous way. My initial goal for the weekend project was to get Raspbmc running on one of my Raspberry Pis. The latest version of XBMC has PVR functionality so I was anxious to try that out as a …

Setting Up Django On a Raspberry Pi

This past weekend I finally got a chance to set up one of my two Raspberry Pis to use as a Django server so I thought I'd share the steps I went through both to save someone else attempting to do this some time as well as get any feedback in case there are different/better ways to do any of this.

I'm running this from my house (URL forthcoming once I get the real Django app finalized and put on the Raspberry Pi) using I don't cover that aspect of things in this post but I'm happy to write that up as well if people are interested.

General Comments and Assumptions

Using latest Raspbian “wheezy” distro as of 1/19/2013 (’lll be using Nginx ( as the web server/proxy and Gunicorn ( as the WSGI serverI used heavily as I was creating this, so many thanks to the author of that tutorial. If you’re looking for more details on …

The Definitive Guide to CouchDB Authentication and Security

With a bold title like that I suppose I should clarify a bit. I finally got frustrated enough with all the disparate and seemingly incomplete information on this topic to want to gather everything I know about this topic into a single place, both so I have it for my own reference but also in the hopes that it will help others.Since CouchDB is just an HTTP resource and can be secured at that level along the same lines as you'd secure any HTTP resource, I should also point out that I will not be covering things like putting a proxy in front of CouchDB, using SSL with CouchDB, or anything along those lines. This post is strictly limited to how authentication and security work within CouchDB itself.CouchDB security is powerful and granular but frankly it's also a bit quirky and counterintuitive. What I'm outlining here is my understanding of all of this after taking several runs at it, reading everything I could find on the Internet (yes, the whole Internet!), and a great deal…