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May19
BuzzMachine's Jeff Jarvis: Books are Outmoded Means of Communication
Jeff Jarvis argues that "the book is an outmoded means of communicating information."  As a book lover, here is my refutation with his perceived problems with books:

They are frozen in time without the means of being updated and corrected.
The fact that, once printed, they can't be altered makes them important.  Yes, the information may be out of date, incorrect or insensitive.  It is important that we read them anyway so that we understand our cultural heritage - the basis by which our ancestors made the decisions which define us today.


They have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources.
Bibliographies and footnotes are certainly links, but they require work (horror!), time and occasionally the learning of an archaic language in order to review.  I'm not sure if Jeff objects to getting out of his chair in order to check sources or the undue strain of the research that refuting an argument requires.

They create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader.
True, if you read the book and move on.  If, however, the book moves you or raises your curiosity you do have the option of writing to the author.  Not surprisingly, authors are genuinely interested in hearing what readers have to say and often respond when clarification is needed or a cogent point is made by the reader.

They try to teach readers but don’t teach authors.
Authors must stand up to, and address (or ignore) criticism of their work, just as often as bloggers do.  It may lack immediacy, but Jeff might try to write a book to see just how much he learns.

They tend to be too damned long because they have to be long enough to be books.
On one hand, yes.  The book industry publishes books in a certain page range and I've read my share that should have been 100 or less pages.  On the other hand - you don't have to read every word, sentence or paragraph in a book (at least nonfiction).

 As David Weinberger taught me, they limit how knowledge can be found because they have to sit on a shelf under one address; there’s only way way to get to it.
That is what library catalogue systems are for.  Besides, if a book is classified in a place you wouldn't intuitively guess, you often find gems shelved around it.

They are expensive to produce.
True.  But they don't depend upon electricity, computers, or technical knowledge.

They depend on scarce shelf space.
Again, true.  But they are also portable, readable in the bathtub and can be dried out and still work if they get wet.

They depend on blockbuster economics. They can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches. They are subject to gatekeepers’ whims.
Check out the huge number of small publishers or self-publishers.  There are A-List books just like there are A-List blogs, but there as many niche books out there as niche blogs.

They aren’t searchable.
Indexes.

They aren’t linkable.
But they are citable.  And you can link to a source that carries the book - whether Amazon or a library.

They have no metadata.
Library of Congress keywords.

They carry no conversation.
Aaah, but some of the best conversations take place within yourself when you puzzle out something you are reading.

They are thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore.
Or recycled, sold second-hand or donated to others.

 Print is where words go to die.
Only if you happen to be financially able to own the technology that can present non-book based mediums.  Only if you have cheap, readily available electricity.

If you were stuck in a shelter for two weeks after a hurricane, with no electricity or internet access, would you rather have a computer or an armload of books and magazines?

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