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15 Reasons Why Books Have Problems

books.jpg According to Jeff Jarvis, the book is an outmoded means of communicating information. He lists many problems with books. According to him, books:

  1. Are frozen in time without the means of being updated and corrected.
  2. Have no link to related knowledge, debates, and sources.
  3. Create, at best, a one-way relationship with a reader.
  4. Try to teach readers but don’t teach authors.
  5. Tend to be too damned long because they have to be long enough to be books.
  6. Limit how knowledge can be found because they have to sit on a shelf under one address.
  7. Are expensive to produce.
  8. Depend on scarce shelf space.
  9. Depend on blockbuster economics.
  10. Can’t afford to serve the real mass of niches.
  11. Aren’t searchable.
  12. Aren’t linkable.
  13. Have no metadata.
  14. Carry no conversation.
  15. Thrown out when there’s no space for them anymore. Print is where words go to die.

Of course, his ideas about books resulted in many comments. I summarize:

  1. Electronics simply can’t replace the tactile experience of reading a book.
  2. Smart authors have found ways to blend the print with the electronic to offer something more.
  3. Books need no batteries, no operating systems, no proprietary viewing clients, they have no software glitches, no format incompatibilities, and you can take them to the beach to read them lying in the sun.
  4. Any book printed today is searchable in Google Books or Amazon’s Search Inside the Book.
  5. Great books are timeless.
  6. Imagine reading Tolstoy with ads for eBay down the side.
  7. Books are for cozying up to the fireplace.
  8. You can’t beat the new book smell and the opening of never opened pages that’s damn right awesome.
  9. Writers deserve to be able to make money from their creations without fear that it’s going to be be copied duplicated and spread around without them earning a penny.
  10. The only thing that will stop physical book printing is when all the trees of the world are dead, and at that point I don’t think anyone of us will really care about reading anymore.
  11. Books and written materials have survived for hundreds and thousands of years. They are still readable. Do you think the electronic media will be around and readable in 400 years? Not likely.
  12. It is a good thing they are frozen in time. My only problem with the Internet is that it can never be clear-cut, because of the mixture of opinions and biases that make it up.
  13. Books provide the writer’s opinion, and nothing else. You don’t read a book to get a multitude of opinions, you read a book because you respect the writer and want to hear his/her opinion.
  14. The author is the one who learns the most from writing their book, because of all the knowledge they have to accumulate in order to make the book worth reading.
  15. When you buy a book, most of the time you get a CD of the book in PDF format.

I believe that both electronic and print media can, and will, coexist together in harmony without one replacing the other. I admit that I buy books less often than what I used to in the past. Usually I buy books for authors I know and I like. I subscribe to Safari Books Online mostly because I am online at least eight hours a day.

Even professionals who can be very good book authors shy away from writing a book because “the figures just don’t add up” especially that “these days, when you can self-publish on the Web, or publish your book as a PDF and sell it online, writing a book is not such a compelling deal”. Even my favorite author reads books on his Palm Pilot :).

Filed in Technology on 22 May 06 | Tags:

Reader's Comments

  1. |

    Almost any work of fiction that I want to read is available in a small portable paperback format. Technical books are the problem: too big, fat and heavy. I would love to have them small and portable. I know that many are available in electronic form, but there isn’t a single good electronic book reader device on the market. Cheap Laptops are too big and small light laptops are too expensive. Besides, a laptop is overkill if all I want to do is read a book. PDA screens are too small. When someone finally comes out with a light inexpensive e-book reader, with a screen as large and readable as a good quality paperback – I’ll buy. If it can do double duty as a PDA – all the better.

  2. |

    Your most important book, came with an electronic book of Mr. Kytes expert one-on-one oracle (8i) edition.

    Hopefully the next book will have an electronic version of Expert Oracle DB architecture.

    I have the printed copy of 1on1 and Expert Oracle DB Arch. But since I purchased the new one, the printed copy of 1on1 as stayed on the shelf in favour of the electronic version. This brings up another problem with electronic books. The electronic version of 1on1 on the CD is horrible as electronic books go, pages numbers don’t correspond, no clickable chapters or index entries. Appears to have been done with a low quality freeware PDF creator. No slight to Mr. Kyte here, absolutely nothing he could have done.

    Both are amazing books, and I have been poking around for another copy of 1on1 because my copy is dog eared, worn out and has so many sticky notes marking pages sticking out of it, my daughter calls in “Father’s Rainbow Book”

    I personally read technical books on paper, and personal books on my PDA or laptop. There are very view personal reading books now that are not electronic. I have shelves and shelves of books. Yet, shelves and shelves of books fit onto my PDA and I have them with me most of the time.

  3. |
    <p>When you buy a book, most of the time you get a CD of the book in PDF format.</p>

    Eh? I’ve never bought/seen a book like that?

  4. |

    […] : Eddie Awad condensed the discussion so far into a good gravy. […]

  5. |

    E-books getting there: HP

    When someone finally comes out with a light inexpensive e-book reader, with a screen as large and readable as a good quality paperback – I’ll buy. Sony Reader

  6. |

    “When you buy a book, most of the time you get a CD of the book in PDF format.” Haven’t seen that either, but you can buy a lot of digital ebooks nowadays online. A lot of informational books are actually only sold as ebooks… And it might be just me, but I hate having to stare and read through a book of 100-200pages on my computer monitor.

    Sony is currently selling a digital ebook reader for +- $350 making it pretty interesting offer. (Haven’t bought one yet myself though.) Philips (iRex devision) is also working on a new toy called the iLiad. Comes with an internet connection (so you can get the newspaper every morning on your pad), but it’s a bid on the expensive side at $810.

    Can’t wait to see what will be available in the coming years 🙂