Monday, December 01, 2008

Future of Books Debated

At a one-day symposium at Yale University, academic publishers debated the future of books. Are digital books the way of the future? Do printed books still matter?

Publishers Weekly had a back and forth report on the meeting.

Leading the charge for digitalizing books was Yochai Benkler, a professor of entrepreneurial legal studies at Harvard, and Michael Heller, an expert on property theory at Columbia Law School.
Digital publishing easily allows the compilation of content from a wide variety of sources, and Heller emphasized that “universities should be supporting the cutting edge of cultural production. Today, that cutting edge is all about assembly of multiple bits of information. In the classroom, it's course readers and online sharing.”
Panelists on the other side included Akhil Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale, and Anthony Kronman, a Yale professor of law and philosophy. Kronman said that university presses should “be partners in the struggle against specialization.”

Ellen Faran of MIT sort of summed up the conference with the hope that “whither the university press” wouldn't become “wither the university press.”

But my favorite quote was from John Donatich, director of Yale University Press:
“Many look forward to the day in which we can etherize books online and commit what the director of the Beinecke Library, Frank Turner, calls 'bibliographic euthanasia.'”
Oh, those smooth-talking academicians.


  1. They're smooth-talking academicians, all right. Only someone adept with a crystal ball will be able to accurately predict what's going to happen with the publishing industry. I think we're going to see some drastic changes in the not-too distant future.

  2. I have a feeling you're right Jean. Young people who've grown up in the digital world are moving into positions of power, the economy is down, ebook readers are becoming easier and more convenient to use... the signs are converging.

  3. There's room for all kinds of books: paper, ebook, audio, any other you can think of, as long as they exist in some form and people enjoy them.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. I tell ya, Morgan, I'm beginning to really want a Kindle so I try ebooks. But I heard rumors they're all sold out. Bah, humbug.


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