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Books are antiquated


While I'd prefer to write on my favorite typewriter, it is clear that the typewriter is obsolete.*

Paper, indeed, is not the medium of first resort — and, beyond this, the possibilities inherent in electronic text are beginning to make some forms of paper end-product publications appear outdated.

Newspapers — god love them — are suffering, certainly, at the whims of punters who've given some of their attention to online versions of news media, and along with their precious attention these readers have taken advertising money with them.

But the possibilities of electronic writing create a more-fundamental quandary for print.

The book — yes, the book — begins to seem an antiquated format.

This is blasphemy, I know. But there is a problem with books, in their stasis.

The book is obsolete.

Antiquated. Not obsolete. The scroll is obsolete, because nobody outside of scholarship uses it.

But there are problems with books, compared with electronic text.

• Books are too permanent. If you write in error, you cannot change text within the print run of thousands of physical objects that are often going to outlast the people who own them.

• Books are linear. This makes the narrator master and lord of the process, dictatory — a power that cannot be abdicated.

• Electronic text provides the ability to connect without physical constraint to any other page anywhere. Obvious, but not to be underestimated.


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* I would prefer to write on a particular typewriter that I had, and I'm ashamed to say that I lost it. I don't remember the name brand of it, but it was pure solid. A portable, cast-iron-shelled, curved beauty. I painted it, over time, and it was beautiful. It's key-pressure was delightful; the machine a tangible marvel.

But I wouldn't write on it, if I had it. I would keep it loaded with a sheet of paper, yes. I would be a handy instantly-accessible writing machine, true.

Hm.

Which brings me to the original idea.

Optical character recognition. The typewriter, usable again.

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Steve Edwards