The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.

Umberto Eco

On Multimedia Literacy

"Today the concept of literacy comprises many media. An enlightened policy of literacy must take into account the possibilities of all these media. Educational concern must be extended to the whole of media. Responsibilities and tasks must be carefully blanced. If for learning languages, tapes are better than books, take care of cassettes. If a presentation of Chopin with commentary on compact disks helps people to understand Chopin, don't worry if people do not buy five volumes of the history of music. Even if it were true that today visual communication overwhelms written communication the problem is not to oppose written to visual communication. The problem is how to improve both" (298).

On Reading Onscreen

"After having spent no more than twelve hours at a computer console, my eyes are like two tennis balls, and I feel the need to sit comfortably down in an armchair and read a newspaper, or maybe a good poem. It seems to me that computers are diffusing a new form of literacy but are incapable of satisfying all the intellectual needs they are stimulating. In my periods of optimism I dream of a computer generation which, compelled to read a computer screen, gets acquainted with reading from a screen, but at a certain moment feels unsatisfied and looks for a different, more relaxed, and differently-committing form of reading" (300-301).

On Communicating and Publishing

"People desire to communicate with one another. In ancient communities they did it orally; in a more complex society they tried to do it by printing. Most of the books which are displayed in a bookstore should be defined as products of vanity presses, even if they are published by a university press.... A great many people do not want to publish; they simply want to communicate with each other. The fact that in the future they will do it by E-mail or over the Internet will be a great boon for books and for the culture and the market of the book. Look at a bookstore. There are too many books. I receive too many books every week. If the computer network succeeds in reducing the quantity of published books, this would be a paramount cultural improvement" (301).
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