The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.

Twenty Minutes into the Future,
or How Are We Moving Beyond the Book?
George P. Landow

On Moving Beyond the Book

"In many ways, we have, for better or worse, already moved beyond the book. Even on the crudest, most materialist standard involving financial returns, we no longer find it at the center of our culture as the primary means of recording and disseminating information and entertainment. The sales of books and other printed matter, for centuries the center of our technology of cultural memory, now have fallen to fourth position behind the sales of television, cinema, and video games. Video games, that child of the digital world, only recently displaced the book in third place on this list" (209).

On Quality on the Web

"For those of us concerned about moving beyond the book, the truly interesting fact about this latest intonation of writing technology lies not in the large among of poorly conceived, egotistical, or simply boring materials created by all these people with access to a form of instant publication but, instead, the way so much interesting material has appeared so quickly and the way new forms of intellectual exchange come about as a result. Of course the Web often looks crude. But when one recalls that it took [one] hundred years after the appearance of the printed book to invent the title page, one realizes it doesn't seem that bad" (230).

On the Risks of the New Technologies

"Less obvious risks also appear inevitable: since the great strength of language, after all, lies in its abstractness, its ability economically to stand in for something else, our notions of education, good writing, and even intelligence itself relate closely to an ability to formulate and manipulate such counters. What will happen, then, when children (and adults) find introducing a three-dimensional video with the sound of, say, a rhinoceros, into a discussion so easy that they increasingly lose the ability to formulate abstract or physical descriptions? McLuhan has persuasively argued that written language had to exist before logical, causal thinking could become widespread. If so, what will happen when we increasingly abandon alphanumeric text, if that ever happens, when we would truly find ourselves beyond the book?" (234).
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