Monday, November 26, 2012

David Byrne on physical books and eBooks

The following is an excerpt from David Byrne's November 21st email blast in which he discusses the release of the electronic version of his new book, How Music Works. This particular snippet details his perceptions of the pros and cons of both physical books and electronic books, or eBooks.


Image via QueerFatFemme

"I like eBooks. I like physical books, too. It's sad to watch bookstores disappear as more and more folks buy their books online or read eBooks and rarely visit a bookstore. What will be lost and what have we gained in this process?

We've definitely gained convenience—as we did with MP3s. I can carry hundreds of eBooks on my device, as well as newspapers and some magazines. I like the elimination of clutter (or at least physical clutter—there is still plenty of virtual clutter in my life). I like that fewer trees are being sacrificed for paper, but I sense this might be (more than?) offset by the massive amounts of power needed to keep the server farms that hold all our info and support the digital universe going all around the globe.

I like that I can highlight sentences in an eBook and then they appear on a web page so my "note taking" is made very easy. I read a lot of nonfiction, so highlighting is part of the fun, and this little bit of technology makes it easier. Same with the built-in dictionaries—I am the product of a Baltimore public school, and though I have continued my education in many ways there are still words I come across that I don't know, so the built in dictionaries are a godsend.

Books, when well made and beautifully designed, are lovely to hold and behold. There is pleasure in reading a well designed book. A little bit of beauty is added to one's life—something that can't be measured in terms of pure information.

I also have a funny feeling that, like much of our world that is disappearing onto servers and clouds, eBooks will become ephemeral. I have a sneaking feeling that like lost languages and manuscripts, most digital information will be lost to random glitches and changing formats. Much of our world will become unretrievable—like the wooden houses, music, and knowledge of our ancient predecessors. I have a few physical books that are 100 years old. Will we be able to read our eBooks in 100 years? Really?

We're sort of making our whole culture and civilization ephemeral—or more ephemeral than ever—with our rush to digitize.

Lastly, as soon as eBooks can be hacked and distributed for free that industry will really be on its knees—just like the music biz."

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