Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Legitimate Technological Concerns

I think Josh Marshall is right on about some of the problems with embracing new media technologies. In particular, he expresses his concerns about electronic books:

The common book requires a threshold level of eyesight and literacy in the given language. Given those two abilities in the owner, once a book comes off the publisher's press, it takes on a life of its own. And as long as it's kept on a shelf, relatively free of moisture and out of reach of small children, even a cheap pulp book can easily last a hundred years. Quality bound books, meanwhile, can last many centuries. Today, though, I can't easily access even papers I wrote in college, which is a touch less than twenty years ago, because they're on floppy disks that few computers can any longer read and written on programs (remember Word Perfect?) accessible only through imperfect conversion utilities. If big swathes of book publishing go the electronic route, how many 'books' will have only a short window of existence before they get marooned in derelict and outmoded technology? Tomorrow's equivalent of Betamax, 8 Track and and now videotapes. Physical books, for all their other shortcomings, can still be read today and tomorrow regardless of technology progress or, as the case may be, regress.

I really agree with this. Now, I'm far from the most technologically adept person writing at this site, and I'll be curious for Sarah and Karthika's opinions on this. But the lack of a universal technology and that new incarnations of particularly technologies have made older versions not only outdated but unusable worries me greatly. I'll be sticking to my real books, tree killing or not, pretty much forever. Maybe that makes me old and out of touch. But I know that I can go back in 30 years and read the same books I have now. I like that guarantee.