June 9th, 2010
Over 20,000 people read my blog post from Wednesday. But I think my problems started in 1902…
That was when Beatrix Potter first published The Tale of Peter Rabbit (which eventually I read when I was a kid). So when the Kindle came along, I was excited there were finally digital illustrated editions of Potter’s books, including slick black-and-white versions of her fairy tales’ watercolors.
Last week I’d blogged about it, adding as an afterthought that I thought Beatrix Potter would’ve liked the Kindle. (In 1906, she was already experimenting with a new non-book format for her books, though with the absence of digital technology, her idea was a long, folded piece of paper that could be carried in a wallet.) Sunday the big wave of traffic came when my post got linked by the great geek web site, Slashdot – though not everyone agreed with my premise.
There were nearly 100 lively comments on their site about everything from color screens, copyrights, and the iPad to the reading habits of infants. But in the middle of the discussion, someone argued that ebooks themselves were just a trendy fad. They panned the “buzz” around the Kindle vs. “a content delivery system which has been proven over the course of centuries.”
Their harshest line? “I may be a luddite but at least my books will still function after the collapse of civilization.”
And then someone posted this response, titled: “Sorry you are a luddite.”
The new digital world is pervasive and more permanent than you could ever imagine. In a world of 6 plus billion people, the only way for everyone to have access to books, literature, everything written down by the humans for the past 10,000 years is through digital form. This is the future. A single paperback book costs on average, $20 today. A near future netbook/ereader will cost around $100 and will have access to millions of works via a cheap connection to the internet. You can’t compete with that with your lump of soggy paper.
And sorry to say, the first thing the mobs do when civilization ends is burn the libraries to the ground, along with all the book hoarders. For any printed book, there may be thousands, or even tens of thousands of copies, but for a digital book, there can be an infinite number of perfect copies.
Beatrix Potter was a populist who wanted to make her books accessible to all segments of society. She would surely see the advent of digitalization as a GOOD THING.
And then, just to leave things on a lighter note, he ended his post with a joke.
“You may now go back to admiring and dusting your book collection.”