The World–Oh, It Is A Changin'

AT&T and the Ma Bell monopoly… Hmm…

Vintage Phone CC bytylerdurden1 @ FlickrI recall the difficulty my grandmother had attaining her phone service after my grandfather died, and she moved into a maintenance-free apartment. The newly split up phone company set the stage for innovation but confused and frustrated her simple efforts to get a phone. In “the old days” you just made a call providing the new address and date of move. But in the days of divesting upheaval, she bemoaned the difficultly of just getting a physical phone, a phone line, a wiring service plan, deciding on the calling feature set, picking a calling plan… I recall seeing in her face how difficult this was for her at that time in her life.

iPhoneI dabble a lot in the digital world, but I suspect that the changes I will be forced to confront when I am the age my grandmother was when she was trying to wrangle with new phone service, will be far more daunting. I already find myself more frequently and more intensely annoyed by the onslaught of digital noise in my life, by the rapid upgrade and update paths, by the latest digital venture. I seem to spend increasing amounts of my energy abating distractions. The younger crowd finds this all so energizing. I am increasingly put off.

Hammurabi's Code CC by erindipity!@ FlickrThis morning (or would you call it tonight) I read this thought-provoking and well-written article in the Wall Street Journal by Steven Johnson. For those who love to read physical books, this digital transition may well put you in a completely different world from everyone else. Will it be a better world of greater clarity, insight, and meaningful possibility or just more overload, more fragmentation, and more disengagement? Will this inevitable transition bring greater wisdom or simply the micro-monetization of the word. Yes.

Hopefully these little citations will entice you to read the entire article, linked at the bottom.Kindle

…the book’s migration to the digital realm would not be a simple matter of trading ink for pixels, but would likely change the way we read, write and sell books in profound ways. It will make it easier for us to buy books, but at the same time make it easier to stop reading them. It will expand the universe of books at our fingertips, and transform the solitary act of reading into something far more social. It will give writers and publishers the chance to sell more obscure books, but it may well end up undermining some of the core attributes that we have associated with book reading for more than 500 years. …

Every word in that library will be searchable. It is hard to overstate the impact that this kind of shift will have on scholarship. … Imagine a software tool that scans through the bibliographies of the 20 books you’ve read on a specific topic, and comes up with the most-cited work in those bibliographies that you haven’t encountered yet. …

[With the eBook reader] the bookstore is now following you around wherever you go. …

… an infinite bookstore at your fingertips is great news for book sales, and … the dissemination of knowledge, but not necessarily so great for… attention.

… print books have remained a kind of game preserve for the endangered species of linear, deep-focus reading [thinking??]. … when you sit down with an old-fashioned book in your hand, the medium works naturally against … distractions; it compels you to follow the thread, to stay engaged with a single narrative or argument.

The Kindle [an eBook reader] in its current incarnation maintains some of that emphasis on linear focus; it has no dedicated client for email or texting… No doubt future iterations … will make it … easy to jump online…

As a result, I fear that one of the great joys of book reading — the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas — will be compromised. …

Google will begin indexing and ranking individual pages and paragraphs from books based on the online chatter about them. (… every page reads all the other pages.”) You’ll read a puzzling passage from a novel and then instantly browse through dozens of comments from readers around the world, annotating, explaining or debating the passage’s true meaning. …

… a permanent, global book club. As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore.. …

Increasingly, readers will stumble across books through a particularly well-linked quote … instead of an interesting cover on display at the bookstore, or a review in the local paper. …

Imagine every page of every book individually competing with every page of every other book that has ever been written, each of them commented on and indexed and ranked. The unity of the book will disperse into a multitude of pages and paragraphs vying for Google’s attention. …

… citation will become as powerful a sales engine as promotion is today. …

… will undoubtedly change the way books are written, just as the serial publishing schedule of Dickens’s day led to the obligatory cliffhanger ending at the end of each installment. …

Individual paragraphs will be accompanied by descriptive tags to orient potential searchers; chapter titles will be tested to determine how well they rank. …

For centuries, we’ve had an explicit system for organizing print books in the form of page numbers and bibliographic info. All of that breaks down … The Kindle doesn’t even have page numbers … because the pagination changes constantly based on the type size you choose to read. …

… until we figure out a standardized way to link to individual pages … books are going to remain orphans in this new [digital] world. …

Readers will have the option to purchase a chapter for 99 cents, the same way they now buy an individual song on iTunes. The marketplace will start to reward modular books that can be intelligibly split into standalone chapters. …

[Source: How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write – WSJ.com]