Patti Smith: ‘Don’t Let Technology Kill Books’

Just KidsRespect to rocker Patti Smith for crossing over from music into literature and winning “the Oscar of the book world.” She’s a massive fan of books, but apparently not ebooks. From BBC News:

Veteran rock singer Patti Smith has won a prestigious US book award for her memoir, Just Kids.

The 63-year-old received the National Book Award for non-fiction for her work, which chronicles her youth in 1960s New York.

As she collected her $10,000 (£6,254) prize, Smith urged publishers not to let technology kill traditional books.

“There is nothing more beautiful than the book, the paper, the font, the cloth,” she said at the New York event.

I’m with Patti in terms of loving books as objects, but my shelves are full and some books I don’t really want to keep anyway, so ebooks are a good solution for me when I can’t get to a lending library. What do other disinformation readers think?

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  • Anonymous

    The book, on paper, with ink, and a cover, will never disappear. The same way vinyl is still out there, it will remain, though perhaps only for a certain particular kind of book.

  • Nobilis

    The book, on paper, with ink, and a cover, will never disappear. The same way vinyl is still out there, it will remain, though perhaps only for a certain particular kind of book.

  • http://www.smashedbottle.com/ sebastian

    Physical books are important because once you acquire one it cannot be remotely deleted from your bookcase or altered depending on current political and social trends.

  • http://www.smashedbottle.com/ sebastian

    Physical books are important because once you acquire one it cannot be remotely deleted from your bookcase or altered depending on current political and social trends.

    • Nobilis

      And an ebook can’t be burned. Your point?

    • Cavocorax

      If you stick with the cheaper ebook readers such as the Sony pocket reader then this isn’t an issue. My ebook reader isn’t connected to the internet, so no one can steal my books off of it. Some say that the Kindle and other readers are more convenient b/c you can buy on the go, but it’s not a big deal to transfer books from your computer.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    As long as people keep reading, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Of course the marketers will take a hit because of illegal copying (but in the ideal digital world, we wouldn’t need the publishers, marketers and anyone else involved that doesn’t actually create the content). E-readers boil the interest in reading down to the basic elements, solely being the content that is being read. I’m more worried about the you-tube generation who don’t care for reading and only spend their time watching video’s, but I guess that’s just the new form of the TV generation that is still everywhere

    I just hope reading doesn’t become an “elitist” thing because only the higher demographics can afford an e-reader

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    As long as people keep reading, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Of course the marketers will take a hit because of illegal copying (but in the ideal digital world, we wouldn’t need the publishers, marketers and anyone else involved that doesn’t actually create the content). E-readers boil the interest in reading down to the basic elements, solely being the content that is being read. I’m more worried about the you-tube generation who don’t care for reading and only spend their time watching video’s, but I guess that’s just the new form of the TV generation that is still everywhere

    I just hope reading doesn’t become an “elitist” thing because only the higher demographics can afford an e-reader

    • Nobilis

      The price of ereaders will come down. Heck, my $25 mp3 player can display .txt files.

      And I think that book designers, cover artists, and editors are critical to enjoying a really good book.

      • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

        Not that i like it but there will always be certain kinds of professional casualties in a market transition, i know you did not give me an exhaustive list, but i’m sure editors and most likely cover-artists will remain as long as books in any form exist (i’m sure someone is going to spend the money on color e-readers down the line eventually).

        From an efficiency standpoint, when things get digitized we have a lot less burden environmentally and economically when we have a more paperless society, way way in the future.

        As an analogy, I’m sure we will eventually switch from a fossil-fuel based transportation system, and in doing so there will be tons of jobs lost with significant know-how in their field, but I would consider it a necessary sacrifice for the sake of efficiency and air cleanliness (assuming the climate scientists are right).

        • Nobilis

          The environmentalism argument is a little thin. Books can be easily recycled, e-readers can’t, and paper for books is farmed, not cut from old-growth. Arguable, but not ironclad.

          Otherwise the point is a good one.

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            Well, i’m an Idealist and a futurist (not a good combination). The environmentalist argument is dramatically weakened by our highly wasteful society on the reader side(I.E. planned obsolescence). However distributing millions of copies of books in digital format is much cheaper material-wise than hard-paper. I can’t say I have any numbers but i would bet that in the lifetime of a single e-reader a lot of paper is saved by the hundreds of pages per book that an individual would buy. Of course I’m assuming that anyone willing to buy an e-reader will be buying(or at least “acquiring” by some means) a large number of books.

            Personally i think eventually the smart-phone and the e-reader market will eventually collide anyways, boosting the viability of digital books even more. If e-ink hits a smart-phone it’ll be all over; they’ve already shown that they can do both in a single computer screen; I don’t know if they can miniaturize the technology though.

          • Nobilis

            I think screen size is a problem. A phone needs a small form factor, and an e-reader needs bigger. I don’t think those two elements are easily handled until we can project a holographic screen of whatever size the user wants.

  • Anonymous

    And an ebook can’t be burned. Your point?

  • Anonymous

    The price of ereaders will come down. Heck, my $25 mp3 player can display .txt files.

    And I think that book designers, cover artists, and editors are critical to enjoying a really good book.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Not that i like it but there will always be certain kinds of professional casualties in a market transition, i know you did not give me an exhaustive list, but i’m sure editors and most likely cover-artists will remain as long as books in any form exist (i’m sure someone is going to spend the money on color e-readers down the line eventually).

    From an efficiency standpoint, when things get digitized we have a lot less burden environmentally and economically when we have a more paperless society, way way in the future.

    As an analogy, I’m sure we will eventually switch from a fossil-fuel based transportation system, and in doing so there will be tons of jobs lost with significant know-how in their field, but I would consider it a necessary sacrifice for the sake of efficiency and air cleanliness (assuming the climate scientists are right).

  • Anonymous

    The reading is more important than the physical books. And I’m a freaking library student!

    Physical books aren’t going away. They might, however become more of a niche market. Besides, old books will still exist, so personal collections won’t go anywhere.

    E-readers still aren’t good enough to allow publishers to put out big titles ONLY as ebooks. They’re still kind of klunky, inconvenient devices in comparison to the ease of use of printed pages. But maybe someday they’ll be even more convenient to read than actual books. Once that happens, I don’t imagine there being much of a reason to not use them, unless they end up being super-expensive.

  • nemoide

    The reading is more important than the physical books. And I’m a freaking library student!

    Physical books aren’t going away. They might, however become more of a niche market. Besides, old books will still exist, so personal collections won’t go anywhere.

    E-readers still aren’t good enough to allow publishers to put out big titles ONLY as ebooks. They’re still kind of klunky, inconvenient devices in comparison to the ease of use of printed pages. But maybe someday they’ll be even more convenient to read than actual books. Once that happens, I don’t imagine there being much of a reason to not use them, unless they end up being super-expensive.

  • Cavocorax

    If you stick with the cheaper ebook readers such as the Sony pocket reader then this isn’t an issue. My ebook reader isn’t connected to the internet, so no one can steal my books off of it. Some say that the Kindle and other readers are more convenient b/c you can buy on the go, but it’s not a big deal to transfer books from your computer.

  • Guest

    Replace the Ocean with Virtual Reality and replace Ships with Internet Connections and Websites and today’s economy looks like “the Age of Reason” … for good or ill.

  • Guest

    Replace the Ocean with Virtual Reality and replace Ships with Internet Connections and Websites and today’s economy looks like “the Age of Reason” … for good or ill.

  • Guest

    Replace the Ocean with Virtual Reality and replace Ships with Internet Connections and Websites and today’s economy looks like “the Age of Reason” … for good or ill.

  • Anonymous

    The environmentalism argument is a little thin. Books can be easily recycled, e-readers can’t, and paper for books is farmed, not cut from old-growth. Arguable, but not ironclad.

    Otherwise the point is a good one.

  • 987

    The written word as a primary media of intellectual exchange has been dead for decades. These days, literate people who form opinions about politics, ethics, or the veracity of historical claims by what they’ve read in books are in the minority of the literate public. This was not the case 200, 100, or 50 years ago.
    As newer and more accessible forms of media have supplanted the written word in popularity, reading has gone from being a lifeline to a greater understanding the world to being a diversion or affectation.
    This is not to say that what books offer society isn’t valuable. It definately is. Committing oneself to a viewpoint adamantly enough to stake one’s name and livelihood on it, to have it bound, to have it recorded and visible in it’s first published form for as long as the paper holds up: this forces one to be more careful and more thoughtful about what one proposes. Add to that the fact that the written word allows for greater complexity of thought as it is more seamlessly reviewed in the moment, and also that the written word must be actively engaged with to be understood, and other forms of existent media begin to pale in comparison.
    But these positive aspects are not reasons to bemoan or deny the death of this media. Instead, they are reasons for us to resign ourselves to it and to begin building viable replacements for the high quality forums of intellectual exchange that we’re bound to bury with the written word.

  • 987

    The written word as a primary media of intellectual exchange has been dead for decades. These days, literate people who form opinions about politics, ethics, or the veracity of historical claims by what they’ve read in books are in the minority of the literate public. This was not the case 200, 100, or 50 years ago.
    As newer and more accessible forms of media have supplanted the written word in popularity, reading has gone from being a lifeline to a greater understanding the world to being a diversion or affectation.
    This is not to say that what books offer society isn’t valuable. It definately is. Committing oneself to a viewpoint adamantly enough to stake one’s name and livelihood on it, to have it bound, to have it recorded and visible in it’s first published form for as long as the paper holds up: this forces one to be more careful and more thoughtful about what one proposes. Add to that the fact that the written word allows for greater complexity of thought as it is more seamlessly reviewed in the moment, and also that the written word must be actively engaged with to be understood, and other forms of existent media begin to pale in comparison.
    But these positive aspects are not reasons to bemoan or deny the death of this media. Instead, they are reasons for us to resign ourselves to it and to begin building viable replacements for the high quality forums of intellectual exchange that we’re bound to bury with the written word.

  • 987

    The written word as a primary media of intellectual exchange has been dead for decades. These days, literate people who form opinions about politics, ethics, or the veracity of historical claims by what they’ve read in books are in the minority of the literate public. This was not the case 200, 100, or 50 years ago.
    As newer and more accessible forms of media have supplanted the written word in popularity, reading has gone from being a lifeline to a greater understanding the world to being a diversion or affectation.
    This is not to say that what books offer society isn’t valuable. It definately is. Committing oneself to a viewpoint adamantly enough to stake one’s name and livelihood on it, to have it bound, to have it recorded and visible in it’s first published form for as long as the paper holds up: this forces one to be more careful and more thoughtful about what one proposes. Add to that the fact that the written word allows for greater complexity of thought as it is more seamlessly reviewed in the moment, and also that the written word must be actively engaged with to be understood, and other forms of existent media begin to pale in comparison.
    But these positive aspects are not reasons to bemoan or deny the death of this media. Instead, they are reasons for us to resign ourselves to it and to begin building viable replacements for the high quality forums of intellectual exchange that we’re bound to bury with the written word.

    • http://rockstarmartyr.net JoeBot

      I hear where you are coming from, but I do disagree with one thing. To assume that book-literacy will be replaced with a new form of intellectual exchange is to assume that some equivalent or superior form of learning has or will emerge.

      Some claimed television was the educational breakthrough, then it was the internet. I can see certain advantages to both of these–the addition of visual elements, the rapid dissemination of new information, the new possibilities of combining otherwise far-flung ideas–but the one thing that seems to inevitably get lost is concentration, and often depth of knowledge. Books tell you a lot about one thing, the Internet a little about everything.

      Optimists like Douglas Rushkoff assumed that these technologies would simply produce “digital natives” who were superior multi-taskers. But in the last pieces and documentaries that I have seen by him, Rushkoff questions whether the new technologies are making kids better at much of anything. Their attention span is like a gnat’s. The ability to retain information is swept away on an endless sea of hyperlink clicking.

      Rushkoff remains an unswerving optimist, though. Neil Postman is my man. He really fleshed out my already dismal perspective. “Amusing Ourselves to Death” is still relevant after all these years.

  • http://cybercasualty.com The JoeBot

    I hear where you are coming from, but I do disagree with one thing. To assume that book-literacy will be replaced with a new form of intellectual exchange is to assume that some equivalent or superior form of learning has or will emerge.

    Some claimed television was the educational breakthrough, then it was the internet. I can see certain advantages to both of these–the addition of visual elements, the rapid dissemination of new information, the new possibilities of combining otherwise far-flung ideas–but the one thing that seems to inevitably get lost is concentration, and often depth of knowledge. Books tell you a lot about one thing, the Internet a little about everything.

    Optimists like Douglas Rushkoff assumed that these technologies would simply produce “digital natives” who were superior multi-taskers. But in the last pieces and documentaries that I have seen by him, Rushkoff questions whether the new technologies are making kids better at much of anything. Their attention span is like a gnat’s. The ability to retain information is swept away on an endless sea of hyperlink clicking.

    Rushkoff remains an unswerving optimist, though. Neil Postman is my man. He really fleshed out my already dismal perspective. “Amusing Ourselves to Death” is still relevant after all these years.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Well, i’m an Idealist and a futurist (not a good combination). The environmentalist argument is dramatically weakened by our highly wasteful society on the reader side(I.E. planned obsolescence). However distributing millions of copies of books in digital format is much cheaper material-wise than hard-paper. I can’t say I have any numbers but i would bet that in the lifetime of a single e-reader a lot of paper is saved by the hundreds of pages per book that an individual would buy. Of course I’m assuming that anyone willing to buy an e-reader will be buying(or at least “acquiring” by some means) a large number of books.

    Personally i think eventually the smart-phone and the e-reader market will eventually collide anyways, boosting the viability of digital books even more. If e-ink hits a smart-phone it’ll be all over; they’ve already shown that they can do both in a single computer screen; I don’t know if they can miniaturize the technology though.

  • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

    Likewise, I am opposed to the Gutterberg fellow. The technology of reading should never have progressed past monks hand copying. Are you going to tell me that there are any books as beautiful as those? Why, I would be downright startled if Just Kids were available for the Kindle for $9.99.

    And I am certain that Ms. Smith would prefer I only buy her music on vinyl. I can’t imagine, given her attitude, that she would even *allow* her music to exist in a digital format, as that would be less beautiful than putting a needle to a piece of plastic.

  • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

    Likewise, I am opposed to the Gutterberg fellow. The technology of reading should never have progressed past monks hand copying. Are you going to tell me that there are any books as beautiful as those? Why, I would be downright startled if Just Kids were available for the Kindle for $9.99.

    And I am certain that Ms. Smith would prefer I only buy her music on vinyl. I can’t imagine, given her attitude, that she would even *allow* her music to exist in a digital format, as that would be less beautiful than putting a needle to a piece of plastic.

  • Anonymous

    I think screen size is a problem. A phone needs a small form factor, and an e-reader needs bigger. I don’t think those two elements are easily handled until we can project a holographic screen of whatever size the user wants.

  • Hadrian999

    i don’t see the printed book disappearing considering an album was released this year on wax cylinder,
    kidding aside reading on an e reader just isn’t the same as having a good book in your hands.

  • Hadrian999

    i don’t see the printed book disappearing considering an album was released this year on wax cylinder,
    kidding aside reading on an e reader just isn’t the same as having a good book in your hands.

  • Hadrian999

    i don’t see the printed book disappearing considering an album was released this year on wax cylinder,
    kidding aside reading on an e reader just isn’t the same as having a good book in your hands.

  • Guest

    Whether on the shelf or in digital format reading can expand, entertain and empower our minds as much
    as corrupt them; as with tele-Vision-Programming or new-Stories. Let us hope we have sufficient analytical reasoning capacity to disseminate between them.

    However; maybe a self-published work is the way forward. No agent, no corporation and no state/ economic agenda backing its filtration into the market. Self-published doesn’t necessarily mean printed rubbish.

    jonsol69.blogspot.com
    Self-published author.

  • jonsol69

    Whether on the shelf or in digital format reading can expand, entertain and empower our minds as much
    as corrupt them; as with tele-Vision-Programming or new-Stories. Let us hope we have sufficient analytical reasoning capacity to disseminate between them.

    However; maybe a self-published work is the way forward. No agent, no corporation and no state/ economic agenda backing its filtration into the market. Self-published doesn’t necessarily mean printed rubbish.

    jonsol69.blogspot.com
    Self-published author.