Friday, August 6, 2010

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.