The future of our collective fret

If I had to bet money on the future of publishing (and maybe libraries), I'd put money on this technology over e-books at 3 to 1.

The machine is still way to expensive for anything but humongous, well-funded libraries. But as the price falls, watch for the intuitively flip dismissal of tangibility in reading to go down with it.

Too often with the e-book thing, we fall into an intellectualized rationalization of preference-- and the assumption that preference has such intellectual dimensions by default. But why should it?

Sure, it makes no sense that consumers prefer paper-- but it seems that most of us do. The why of it is really an academic question. And it just seems to me that the technology that embraces that preference seems more likely to thrive than the one that disdains it.

I find it useful to think of it all like this: the development of technology in a capitalist, consumption-based economy is defined by the tension and interplay between profits (for the producer) and practice (for the user). Progress, to the extent that the term is meaningful, mostly comes into play as a function of one or the other. We're conditioned to equate "new" with "better"-- maybe that's the root of consumption itself- but it's not necessarily more true with technology than it is, say, with fashion.

(Note, please, that I say "necessarily." I'm not saying new technology can't be preferable, just that we shouldn't assume that it is preferable, or even that being preferable in one manner makes it preferable in all possible manners.)

1 comment:

cj said...

I have always wanted a machine like this. For me, the appeal lies in getting to choose the font, typesize, margins, and paper type -- so I wouldn't have to slog through David Copperfield in tiny type crammed onto tissue-thin, translucent pages. Apparently the four-volume, beautifully-formatted version of David Copperfield isn't a marketable proposition -- but the Espresso Book Machine doesn't care!