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    future of the book

    I finished reading the Nichol / McCaffery collaboration Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book-Machine about a month ago, but I'm still picking it up and pulling good quotes out of it.

    For instance, there's this 1831 gem by Alphonse de Lamartine: he's writing on journalism, but the quote seems even more trenchant when taken as an early prediction (and critique?) of the emergence of the "blogosphere":

    "Before this century shall run out, journalism will be the whole press—the whole human thought. Since that prodigious multiplication which art has given to speech—multiplication to be multiplied a thousand-fold yet—mankind will write their books day by day, hour by hour, page by page. Thought will be spread abroad in the world with the rapidity of light; instantly conceived, instantly written, instantly understood at the extremities of the earth—it will spread from pole to pole. Sudden, instant, burning with the fervor of soul which made it burst forth, it will be the reign of the human soul in all its plentitude. It will not have time to ripen—to accumulate in a book; the book will arrive too late. The only book possible from today is a news paper."

    To be fair, it seems like Lamartine was slightly off the mark—books still get written, after all—although Nichol and McCaffery couple the Lamartine quote from Lyotard, which seems to even more precisely (if cynically) predict the status of the book in the current state of the mediascape:

    "[I]n the next century there will be no more books. It takes too long to read, when success comes from gaining time. What will be called a book will be a printed object whose 'message' (its information content) and name and title will first have been broadcast by the media, a film, a newspaper interview, a television program, and a cassette recording. It will be an object from whose sale the publisher (who will also have produced the film, the interview, the program, etc.) will obtain a certain profit margin, because people will think that they must 'have' it (and therefore buy it) so as not to be taken for idiots or to break (my goodness) the social bond! The book will be distributed at a premium, yielding a financial profit for the publisher and a symbolic one for the reader."

    Less dire takes can maybe be found at if:book, the blog of the Insititute for the Future of the Book, although it's worth noting that the top post as I write this is a post about war documentaries, gamer theory, machinima, and Sony TV commercials: quite interesting, but not a book in sight.

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    Friday, May 05, 2006
    10:51 AM


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