Books Suck.

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So there was this story last week about Stanford University's "bookless" library.

This whole bookless argument has escalated since Amazon showed that ebooks kick regular books' asses when they deleted copies of 1984 remotely from a bunch of Kindles. Tell me the last time Mr. Houghton or Mr. Mifflin kicked in your front door to take back a paperback copy of Animal Farm...

But my guess is that since most people still read paper books, they aren't aware this battle even exists.

This is what we think of as progress:

  • Having a book means that you have direct contact with the information.
  • Having an ebook means that you are at least one step removed from accessing the information.
  • Having your ebook in the cloud means you are at least two steps from accessing the information.

And this really is progress. For people who don't know any better. Doesn't anyone see how the supply chain for getting to the information is getting longer and longer? And what does any business model say about long supply chains? Shit happens.

So I'm amazed that people still review books. Since any person who matters has abandoned them by now.

I mean, we live in the 2.0 world where information flows in both directions, to the consumer from the creator and then back again, so the creative process involves everyone. And I am told this is the new world, that books, movies, all media will evolve to incorporate the desires of the consumer to create fantastic new art forms.

And that is why I'm amazed that anyone still reviews anything professionally. Why review the book before we get to tweet about how we loved it? I mean, we are the meaning of 2.0. Why would we care about your opinion?

So I appreciate our reviewers and journalists. They remind those assholes tweeting their opinions freely that there are other people who do it well enough to get paid. And it is not they.

No serious art requires our input. It exists regardless of how much I want it to be different or the same or bigger or with extra kitties in it.

There are the common entertainments, the jugglers, the street performers, the penny arcades, the bouts of fisticuffs in alleyways; and these are for most of us because we demand so little. We don't want to think critically about our world; we simply want to enjoy it.

But a book or CD or movie or whatever is a one-street. It does not seek collaboration. It does not require my input. And that's why I'm glad that we exist in a world where professional reviews are still valued and that the publishing world doesn't just link to hashtags in Twitter: "Can't wait!!! #transformers3D".

There's a subtle balance between art and science that happens when you critique some discovery or product or invention or performance. The science is fact: who, what, when, where. The art is understanding and explaining in a new way: why, how.

I'm glad that there is still a market for intelligent criticism, that there are still those who can appreciate it. But for how long?

(original PG-13 post on my blog.)