July 24, 2011

Slice of PIE: Radio, Television, Internet, Ebooks Triumph! The Piano, Radio, TV, Paper Books are Dead!

In an 1838 letter to Francis O.J. Smith [regarding the telegraph], Morse wrote: "This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed."

H.G. Wells wrote in "The Way the World is Going" in 1925: “I have anticipated radio’s complete disappearance…confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to listening in, will soon find a better pastime for their leisure.”

“Television replaced radio as the dominant broadcast medium by the 1950s and took over home entertainment. Approximately 8,000 U.S. households had television sets in 1946; 45.7 million had them by 1960.” http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/150/1930.xhtml

Hans Moravec, was quoted in a 1995 article in Wired titled "Superhumanism": "The robots will re-create us any number of times, whereas the original version of our world exists, at most, only once. Therefore, statistically speaking, it's much more likely we're living in a vast simulation than in the original version. To me, the whole concept of reality is rather absurd. But while you're inside the scenario, you can't help but play by the rules. So we might as well pretend this is real - even though the chance things are as they seem is essentially negligible."

“The Matrix is a science fiction action franchise created by Andy and Larry Wachowski and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The series began with the 1999 film The Matrix and later spawned two sequels; The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix_(franchise)

An article by doubleface on MSN.money states that “The Paper Book Is Dead” – (http://money.msn.com/shopping-deals/article.aspx?post=c7f0c03d-2968-49db-a8ed-60b513fb8677) because:

1) Profit margins for publishers on ebooks are higher

2) Libraries allowed to lend books 26 times (HarperCollins) then have to rebuy it (see number 1) but will NEVER have to replace books borrowed less than that; libraries have limited funding and ebooks are cheaper

3) Readers pay less for the book

4) Reader ease –it’s easier to carry six ebooks to Cancun than to carry six paper books

While we haven’t yet reached the stage of computer complexity implied by the Matrix movies (at least I don’t FEEL like we have…), every other death knell sounded for some form of media has proven either premature or absurd. As well, those same criers seem to ignore the flexibility of media to adapt. They also completely miss other technological developments that create entirely new uses or venues for the media form that is on the verge of disappearing.

For example, do they even manufacture cars without radios?

Are satellites used more for spying or checking up on your sweetie’s tardiness?

While CDs for music have slowly disappeared, the technology jumped sideways and has become the primary format in which people “own” movies – often made from films that were originally printed on flammable cellulose and must be stored under extreme special conditions.

We cannot predict the “death” of anything. Announcing the death of paper books – whether through bold proclamation or condescending admission – is a tad premature. It’s also wealth-centric in the extreme. Ereaders are beyond the means of the majority of the world’s population, where books are easily within the reach of that same population.

“Availability of ereaders: This is an important factor as well. In many parts of the world it is impossible, or way too expensive, to get your hands on an ereader. As an example of this, I have searched high and low in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines, and not been able to find any ereaders. I know this situation is slowly changing, but it has a long way to go before ereaders become universally available, and at prices that people can afford as well.” http://www.ebookanoid.com/2011/05/04/ebooks-will-not-kill-paper-books-at-least-not-for-a-long-time/

Finally, when you consider the number of used books shipped overseas to schools, training centers, libraries – the International Book Project alone has shipped nearly six million books since its inception in 1966 – you cannot help but wonder what would have happened if there had been no paper books and they sent old Kindles, Nooks and Sony Ereaders instead.

Would developing countries have the level of literacy they have today if there had been no paper books? Another point is that once in print, a book is very difficult to edit; the printed word is more-or-less permanent. But what will happen when rural Russians get their first electronic copies of THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO – after it has been thoroughly cleaned up by the central book store? Or what will the electronic version of HUCK FINN look like in a northern middle school after the school board gets a phone call challenging the language?

If the “e-revolution” continues and the source of affordable paper books flowing to developing countries ceases, we may face another kind of revolution fast on its heels.

My point however is to ask what exactly will we DO with old ereaders? To what creative use will they be put when the poor manage to finally get hold of the cast offs?

What entrepreneur will discover a way to make paper books indispensible the way auto makers made the radio indispensible – did I ask if they even MAKE cars without radios?

Image: http://www.radiomuseum.org/images/radio/sears_roebuck_co/silvertone_1904_724353.jpg

No comments: