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Old 12-20-2010, 02:40 PM   #1
Clemenseken
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Wink Professore Umberto Eco calls us eReaders "Taliban" in interview

Hi!
I will write this post in several steps as I still have to get accustoked to my new Pocketbook IQ's touck keyboard.
First here is an excerpt of an interview given by the honestly admired Maestro Umberto to the leading German daily newspaper FAZ - a "googlelated" version will come next...

I am about to paste a link to the news article site now.
Here we go: http://tinyurl.com/2bavkef

Quote:
And how are you doing about e-books?
Since I become more farsighted with age, I probably read the newspaper in the future on the iPad. And if you want to read the " Iliad" as an e-book: Please, we live in a free society, everyone can do what he wants.
Only: Everything we know about ourselves, we owe the tradition of books, and have been for nearly two thousand years. But so far there is no evidence that electronic devices will endure for a similarly long time. And then there is our tactile, haptic and emotional connection with books. If we find books in the basement we once read as a child, this moves us. If one day we find the disk that we used as a child, our computer can not read them anymore, and the disk is the same as that of any other person. The fact that we lose the personal contact is not only a disaster for bibliophiles. A small minority of electronic Taliban will only deal with iPads and e-books, all others will continue to need books, I am convinced.
Quote:
Und wie halten Sie es mit den E-Books?
Da ich mit dem Alter immer weitsichtiger werde, muss ich wohl in Zukunft die Zeitung auf dem iPad lesen. Und falls Sie die "Ilias" als E-Book lesen wollen: Bitte, wir leben in einer freien Gesellschaft, jeder kann machen, was er will.
Nur: Alles, was wir über uns wissen, verdanken wir der Überlieferung aus Büchern, und das seit bald zweitausend Jahren. Bisher aber gibt es keinen Beweis dafür, dass die elektronischen Geräte ähnlich lange überdauern werden. Und dann ist da unsere taktile, haptische, auch emotionale Verbindung mit Büchern. Wenn wir im Keller Bücher finden die wir einst als Kind gelesen haben, bewegt uns das. Wenn wir aber eines Tages die Diskette finden, die wir als Kind verwendet haben, kann unser Computer sie nicht mehr lesen, und die Diskette ist dieselbe wie die einer beliebig anderen Person. Dass wir den persönlichen Kontakt verlieren, ist nicht nur für Bibliophile ein Desaster. Eine kleine Minderheit elektronischer Taliban wird nur mit iPads und E-Books umgehen, alle anderen werden Bücher weiterhin brauchen, davon bin ich überzeugt.
Well!
I do NOT feel a Taliban - but I still buy paper books of my favourite authors...

Last edited by Clemenseken; 12-20-2010 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 12-20-2010, 03:20 PM   #2
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I'd like someone who can do a real translation to let us know if he was calling all ebook readers "Taliban," or if that referred specifically to the iPad. (It's possible that the difference is unclear in the original, but it's also possible that the meaning just doesn't auto-translate well.)

He has a point, in that e-texts remove the personal qualities we associate with books; it's something the publishing industries are going to need to deal with in a few years--can I hand my favorite series off to my kids? Will they remember them as fondly as I remember my shelves of paperbacks?

However, these concerns aren't directly relevant to ebooks' production and marketing--when cars started to replace horses, plenty of people were unhappy that they'd lose the organic connection to travel, but it didn't stop cars from dominating the marketplace eventually.
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Old 12-20-2010, 03:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
I'd like someone who can do a real translation to let us know if he was calling all ebook readers "Taliban," or if that referred specifically to the iPad. (It's possible that the difference is unclear in the original, but it's also possible that the meaning just doesn't auto-translate well.)

He has a point, in that e-texts remove the personal qualities we associate with books; it's something the publishing industries are going to need to deal with in a few years--can I hand my favorite series off to my kids? Will they remember them as fondly as I remember my shelves of paperbacks?
He certainly doesnt think every ebook reader a Taliban.
He is ahighly intelligent man of undisputed integrity (maybe berlusconi and his clowns would disagree.)
I remember that as a teenager I would seek and buy every Sherlock Holmes book but after 20 years they were fading and i felt "betrayed".
Man was i happy when i first discovered an ebook edition, omnibus, of Conan Doyles' works!!!
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Old 12-20-2010, 03:56 PM   #4
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I, too, am not sure how much was lost to translation here. Remember that he's Italian, so the German "original" was probably a translation already. That said:

Eine kleine Minderheit elektronischer Taliban wird nur mit iPads und E-Books umgehen, alle anderen werden Bücher weiterhin brauchen, davon bin ich überzeugt.

=> A small minority of "elctronic Taliban" will interact with iPads and ebooks only, all others will continue to need books, of that I am convinced.
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Old 12-20-2010, 05:05 PM   #5
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It's the perennial argument about the content of books versus their physical appearance. IMO far too many people have shelves of beautiful, unread books. And they don't usually survive physically for 2000 years either.
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Old 12-20-2010, 05:22 PM   #6
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IMO far too many people have shelves of beautiful, unread books.
Eco himself is one of them, actually. He famously argues that "read books are far less valuable than unread ones".
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Old 12-20-2010, 05:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogue_librarian View Post
Eco himself is one of them, actually. He famously argues that "read books are far less valuable than unread ones".
Buy a book, don't read it so that it can remain valuable....yeah that makes a lot of sense. NOT!
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Old 12-20-2010, 06:12 PM   #8
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Keep in mind that "Taliban" literally means "student", so you could translate the sentence to

Quote:
A small minority of electronic educated will only deal with iPads and e-books, all others will continue to need books, I am convinced.
Now, this sounds much nicer. And as he said, the uneducated will continue to need books.
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Old 12-20-2010, 11:48 PM   #9
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I find it ironic that the man who so famously championed the dissemination of knowledge and the folly of blindly adhering to tradition in The Name of the Rose would speak against the most effective way to disseminate knowledge around the world in the 21st century by himself blindly adhering to tradition. His reasoning, at its very core, is no different than that of the very religious teachers he disdains.

Last edited by SlowRain; 12-21-2010 at 12:28 AM.
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Old 12-21-2010, 12:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlowRain View Post
I find it ironic that the man who so famously championed the dissemination of knowledge and the folly of blindly adhering to tradition in The Name of the Rose would speak against the most effective way to disseminate knowledge around the world in the 21st century by himself blindly adhering to tradition. His reasoning, at its very core, is no different than that of religious teachers.
I must admit - that was my first thought as well.

However, I also think he has a point about the shifting and unreliable nature of digital storage media if he's talking about personal archives - floppy, CD, solid state etc...

It's a factor - along with DRM - that may impact the longevity of an individual possession. I don't think it's necessarily as much of a factor for the preservation of the work for the collective.

As for emotional attachment - I can see a Good Reads bookshelf along with typed impressions/reviews to replace the emotional attachment to a dusty tome.

I think hardcopy books do face their own issues though - mould/rot, mice and various forms of neglect/accident can impact the integrity of the book as a possession.

If you're conscientious (and have no qualms about breaking DRM), an electronic book could not only stand the test of time in your own lifetime, but be successfully willed to your children and grandchildren. The difference is of course, that instead of inheriting boxes of books, you might just be picking up a USB hard-drive, SD card, or data crystal (depending on what technology is in favour).

Regards
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Old 12-21-2010, 02:10 AM   #11
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Buy a book, don't read it so that it can remain valuable....yeah that makes a lot of sense. NOT!
That's somewhat of a misrepresentation of Eco's statement; he portrays it metaphorically (quote is originally from Taleb's Black Swan):

Quote:
Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight read-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
Hence, the portrays the knowledge in books you haven't read as more valuable than the knowledge in books you did read
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Old 12-21-2010, 08:12 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by SlowRain View Post
I find it ironic that the man who so famously championed the dissemination of knowledge and the folly of blindly adhering to tradition in The Name of the Rose would speak against the most effective way to disseminate knowledge around the world in the 21st century by himself blindly adhering to tradition. His reasoning, at its very core, is no different than that of the very religious teachers he disdains.
Yes,it is. He is concerned about the durability of knowledge. The point he brings up about the incompatibility of older technologies with current ones is quite to the point. Also, while electronic texts are the easiest to disseminate, they are not the easiest to consume because they require a specialized reading device. I think the advances made in POD such as the "espresso machine" may combine the best of both worlds and give us easily disseminated yet fully tactile and durable texts.

I also think the comparison to the Taliban is rather apt for the extreme minority of what Jaron Lenier calls "Digital Maoists." These are ideologically driven consumers who see going all-digital not as a matter of convenience but an act of virtue. Books get ripped, scanned, and mashed and remixed to become part of the single "Big Book" which serves as a repository of the collective intellect of the human race. Serve this along side a dessert of singularity induced euphoria and enjoy. The Taliban were/are a mutated cross breed of classical Islam with modernity. The Buddhas Bamyan had stood for over a thousand years after the advent of Islam in Afghanistan. None of the scholars of previous eras called for them to be destroyed. It took an Islam mixed with (post)modern identity politics and geopolitical calculation, an ocean of human experience reduced to a rigid and formulaic ideology, to destroy those statues. And partisans of another rigid ideology do welcome the demise of the book as a matter of ideological purity. I am not saying that the fine participants of Mobileread (or most ebook readers) are partisans of this ideology, but there certainly are a minority of people who wish to never sully themselves with a "tree meat" book again.

Recently, in preparation for a move, I decided that now that I had several ebook readers and a substantial digital library, I could do away with all my public domain books. I donated them to the Book Thing (a non-profit dedicated to distributing free books to whoever wants them), so they weren't destroyed and will be loved, but a few days/weeks later I realized that I had gotten rid of some books that had real sentimental value to me. It hurt. Shortly thereafter, my Pocketbook 360 mysteriously disappeared. Stolen? Broken and then disposed off without anyone notifying me? Who knows?
I ended up repurchasing several of the books I had donated, especially the Nietzsche collection and the books of the early modern philosophers. I had sold my college texts! My Malebranche, my Spinoza, my Leibnitz! I fully understand and agree with what Eco is stating here. The convenience of electronic reading is powerful, but a complete transition would destroy something valuable.

Luqman
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Old 12-21-2010, 08:14 AM   #13
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That's somewhat of a misrepresentation of Eco's statement; he portrays it metaphorically (quote is originally from Taleb's Black Swan):



Hence, the portrays the knowledge in books you haven't read as more valuable than the knowledge in books you did read
Having a large library of unread books as a reference also prevents a wikipedia style flanderization of knowledge.
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:56 PM   #14
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If books in the original latin still exist, how many people can pick those up and do more with them than early ebooks on 5 inch floppy disks? Both will need translation services or a machine capable of dealing with the media, whether ascii or latin.

But I do understand - I can pass along books but with media, I or someone will have to keep moving it to the newest fad to pass it along. And what many do not know is that the writable cd\dvd we use have a potentially finite life before the dyes or plastics deteriorate.
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Old 12-21-2010, 02:10 PM   #15
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I get his point on the unproved longevity of digital mediums. On the other hand, fires and floods ruined many traditional books so nothing is perfect. Unless he is calling for stone tablets, lol.

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