Monday, June 26, 2006

Digerati: The Social Life of E-Books and their Reader/Writers

In the May 15, 2006 issue of Library Journal, Andrew Richard Albanese publishes an interview with Ben Vershbow of the Institute for the Future of the Book (Blog link). The interview was triggered by a series of blog entries that Vershbow posted there as "The Book is Reading You." If you visit, you will see lots of interesting posts more recently, too. The interesting part of the interview to me, was the discussion of the possibility of e-books incorporating readers' comments, reviews and marginal notes. This is reality now for e-books, not just blog entries, with the evolution of library automated systems to support such things. They are rather like's lists mania function to group similar books by reader's thinking, and the Amazon review function. But now, with Innovative Interfaces and some other automation systems, you can add such things (along with book jackets) to your online public access catalog. Take a look at PennTags Link. You can also have e-books on the web that incorporate such features (see GAM3R 7H3ORY link).

See also KairosNews, a blog for Discussing Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy, as they describe themselves. link.

But these guys have such a strong bias toward digitization, that they sometimes come off as positively hostile to print, which they call "dead tree media." They were disturbed by Jared Lanier's interesting essay on, "Digital Maoism, The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism link. The point of Lanier's essay is that co-operative works like Wikipedia lose the authorial voice and selectivity and become the product of the collective mentality, which he distrusts. Lanier's problem is not the production of collaborative works, but the attitude that people exhibit toward them (and I think, all electronic media) that they have a magical wisdom. There is a fanaticism edging toward religiosity in the Wiki culture, that elevates the collective mentality above individual work. (see the wars over whether Jimbo Wales, god-king adminstrator of Wikipedia, engaged in censorship by removing legally objectionable articles from the encyclopedia with no tracks of changes link and Wikipedia Link).

These are interesting people to read, though I am not sure I agree with either point of view. I stumbled across this group of voices, and find that there is an entire blogospere sector I was not aware of.

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