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17 July 2010

Reflecting on Books

Yet another entry in the retail selling of e-books race is Borders, which hopes to sell "seven to ten" [different] types of e-book readers by the end of the year (less than 6 months from now).  Are there seven e-reading devices currently available or will be by year's end?

Meanwhile, being thinking people, we continue to reflect on the history and future of books.  David Brooks of the New York Times did just that in a recent editorial column.  And, many wrote letters to comment (these are actual hardcopy letters versus comments written while online (although I don't know if that means the writers were more thoughtful and reflecting as they wrote).

I was speaking with a Professor of Psychology at Sauk Valley Community College who just purchased Nicholas Carr's new book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. In a way, he will be reading it not to learn anything new, but for affirmation of what he already believes to be true: that since we are getting our information in little bits and bytes in about the same length of time, we do not take the time to think and reflect, nor do most of us notice the loss.  The commonly held premise is that with the internet's vast resources and superior filtering abilities, a seeker of information (note that we do not say "knowledge" and certainly not "wisdom") could garner only the "relevant" points and avoid all the non-relevant stuff upon seeing the results of an "online search."  I believe that we are lulled by the misnomer, the miscalling of what we find when we seek to be "information."  How do we know it's information, let alone relevant?  Do we believe the world wide web is a mind-reader, able to analyse the data to deliver what would inform us? I am especially fascinated by the proposition that every technological innovation starts with an ethos and the internet's is that of the industrialist -- speed, efficiency, optimized productivity and consumption, i.e., bang for the buck (that would be my editorial summary).

From Library Journal: "VERDICT Neuroscience and technology buffs, librarians, and Internet users will find this truly compelling. Highly recommended."

How can that be?  Neuroscientists, maybe yes, but librarians will probably feel bilious when reading this unless they are no longer manning research or lending libraries but "information resource centers" and as for technology buffs and Internet users, I am doubtful this group would be willing to work as hard as one must to read this book and then, take the time to be compelled by it, unless we take in the entire universe of "Internet users" such as you my Gentle Reader and yours truly, who might actually be users of the internet but not "buffs" of any kind of technology except maybe BMW motorcycles.  Do I wrong someone?  Let me know.

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