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The esteemed author thinks e-books will ruin us. Do you agree?
Jonathan Franzen has launched a passionate defence of the printed book, warning that our desire for the instant gratification of e-books is damaging for society.
Ricky Xia's profile photoMarta Rauch's profile photoLorie Johnson's profile photoJohn Childs's profile photo
I would really be curious if a similar argument was made when bound books replaced scrolls and pieces of parchment. Any historians know anything about that?
I think if e-books are done correctly, it will help society--especially in the education arena. Fiction and other books read for pleasure I don't think will have much of an impact at all, but the ability for a schoolchild to simply tap a word he/she doesn't know to get the definition is awesome.
When Guttenberg invented press, I bet some "esteemed author" cribbed about that too.
It'll be hell for publishers of physical books, sure, Damaging society? Not too sure of that.
Some people just don't want to accept change...
Good to know that Mr. Franzen has appointed himself the guardian of society.
“I think the combination of technology and capitalism has given us a world that really feels out of control. "

This guy sounds pretty tech-averse in general.
LL Pete
The instant gratification is not having to go to the bookstore or wait until the package from Amazon arrives. You still have to read it. And if it is a real classic that you want to ensure survives the collapse of industrial civilization, get a high quality print edition and store it away in your book bunker. Maybe future generations will find lots of Frazen's work so preserved.
Time for a new remix of "Video Killed the Radio Star"?
I read Freedom in hardcover, and unfortunately, it would've been just as bad as an e-book.
+Paul Basehore , +Vishnu Suresh Although I'm not a historian I've written something about ancient media. When I did research, I discovered that scribes were confident that literature was doomed because of Gutenberg's invention. Handwritten books were the only proper medium for publishing and reading, they said. They didn't believe printed books had any advantages over handwritten books. Mr Franzen isn't that far away from scribes?
The sky is falling down, said chicken little
Totally disagree with this guy. He's aversion to this new technology is mainly a sign that he is likely linked to publishing industry. Traditional publishers that don't re-invent themselves are set to fail sooner than later. If they don't start including digital production of the books they have licensed, and the new rights acquisitions, they will not last against self-publishing solutions like Amazon. What stops JK Rowling from self-publishing her next awesome story? Publishers need to change what they are doing. Nothing is set in stone. The whole world changes. Adapt and survive. Be stagnant and die. Simple as that...
I used to buy a lot of books (especially the used ones). But now I like my Kindle
*. Portability: I can carry it everywhere
*. Bookmarks: Synced across multiple devices.
*. Green: Each time I buy a paperback, my conscience goes "trees, trees, trees". Electronic may not be best, but I think it cuts down on wastage.
*. Cataloguing. It is better than any library system.
*. Mark-ups. I used to hate marking on paperbacks. But this not only helps markup but share as well!.
*. Availability and Accessibility: Digital copies live forever (kinda) and can be accessed through multiple devices.
*. And finally, No dog-earring!
Ironic? I read a couple of his books on my Kindle. Hey, if its such a hardship getting paid from a new publishing medium, maybe he wants to return my money. The books weren't that great anyway.
I think Franzen isn't profiting from the ebook market and instead of capitalizing on both versions of books so he's redirecting his energy into dissolving the ebook market instead of capitalizing on it. I think +LL Pete makes a good point on reading now, and buying the real book later if its deemed worthwhile. Or like +Vishnu Suresh's post shows, the ebooks portability is unrivaled and much less wasteful. Why wouldn't someone smart like Franzen realize things like this? Does he enjoy destroying entire forests just to put out millions of books that people can't carry with them everywhere?
The closest thing we have to permanent writing is literally carving words into stone. I will therefore only accept the argument of impermanence from a stone mason.
His point about permanence also worries me. I may just be being conspiratorial but what happens when there are no more printed books and a Fahrenheit 451 type scenario can happen by hitting the delete button? Maybe its just one phrase in a book that is found to be subversive, who's going to stop that phrase from being deleted? Trusting our own government to uphold freedom of speech is looking tenuous at best.
What happens when China fights Amazon for the censor button? Twitter is already buckling to international pressure. These technology companies are not going to be able to or even want to fight against governments forever.
Also, Barnes and Noble might argue that the success of its own e-reader is the only way its brick-and-mortar locations can survive:
No doubt there were opponents to the printing press as well. Any disruptive technology engenders hatred from those it threatens to displace. If you really want the democratization of thought - and all that entails - ebooks are a natural and welcome progression.
+RL Willard I think the fear was that the printed word would erase the oral tradition... storytelling, etc.

In any event, I don't buy the all-or-nothing argument that only one format can survive. I still own and purchase both.
My perspective is that e-books are just another medium for reading. If paper books become obsolete, I would rather have e-books than no books.
+Eric Marin podcasts and audiobooks exist. Oral tradition isn't going anywhere. Or should I say its going more places than before now. Kids can listen to oral story's on the way to school if they want...and they don't have to walk through traffic looking at a book anymore. I think Franzen is more damaging to society than the e-books lol. Just kidding.
I do not have an e-reader yet. Haven't decided which one I want, and/or need. I can see that they'd be handy for instruction manuals and cookbooks, perhaps, or travel, but I still love real books. Still, the medium is not as important as its consumption. Are the writers being paid? Are the stories, articles, recipes, etc- being read? Whether its a clay tablet, stone wall, scroll, scrap of paper or e-ink, it's still communication. I will always love actual books, but there is room in my life for a new medium. (Beats reading on my phone, too...)
+Lorie Johnson I don't mind reading news articles on my phone, but definite thumbs down on books.
I have to agree with Lorie, its not the media that we have to worry about. The threat to society is what is being published. These days anyone can put something together and call it a book.
i like them both. I love that I can download classics that I either wouldn't want to pay that much for or couldn't find onto my kindle.
elements of society will be destroyed. (I'm looking at you used bookstore, retail store, distributor) but other societal elements. i do not see public lending libraries surviving. loaning a book to a friend seems unlikely to survive. long term, what societal changes will come about because we no longer own books, only a limited license to read them?
Why does this question matter? Books are already dead.
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