Thursday March 18th, 2010

The Tech Drums

This post by designer Craig Mod about the future of printed books vs. digitized books is visually pleasing, and reasonably stated:

I want to look at where printed books stand in respect to digital publishing, why we historically haven’t read long-form text on screens and how the iPad is wedging itself in the middle of everything. In doing so I think we can find the line in the sand to define when content should be printed or digitized.

This is a conversation for books-makers, web-heads, content-creators, authors and designers. For people who love beautifully made things. And for the storytellers who are willing to take risks and want to consider the most appropriate shape and media for their yarns.

And it has drawn many responses. I still can’t help but think that the most impassioned e-book advocates are getting ahead of themselves. Not because I’m a Luddite, or not just because of that. Mostly because I lived through the tech revolution in music, and it was much more seamless and less contested than this at every stage. Cassettes replaced LPs quickly when I was a kid. And CDs, though they shared space with cassettes for a few years, weren’t welcomed with a lot of hand-wringing about wanting to preserve cassettes. The reason for this seems obvious—when you listen to music, the delivery system is invisible. It only matters in so far as it produces good sound. The benefits of, say, breadth of accessibility on an iPod doesn’t have a corresponding disadvantage. It sounds like many people understand the pleasures of holding and interacting with a book, but the tech parade (the lucrative tech parade) keeps beating the drum, hoping that the louder it gets the more inevitable all these changes will be. And they may be right. I just don’t think it’s at all clear that in this case technology represents a significant improvement.