Have you heard about the Kindle? It’s a small digital note pad that allows you to purchase and download digital books through Amazon. In July of this year many owners of the Kindle woke up to find that the copy of George Orwell’s book 1984 they had previously purchased, had been deleted from their notepad without their permission. Their bank accounts and credit cards had been credited the amount that they had paid for the book. It seems that because of some mix up, Amazon did not really have the right to sell 1984. So their solution – sent out a command to all Kendal’s to delete Orwell’s book. The irony writes itself.
One of the good things about digital books is that they can be updated automatically, handy if there is a typo. But, what happens if the book is a political nonfiction, say about a war or a previous administration. What if the author writes something that someone else thinks is libelous? To avoid a law suit, does the publisher send out a signal through the internet to remove the offending passages. Do all digital books become sterilized, cleansed of all political incorrectness? Where will we turn if we want to find the original texts of some long dead author? In the future, will real printed books become more valuable because they cannot be easily changed?
Now, the inevitable slide into dorkiness. I remember this episode of Star Trek were Captain Kirk was being court marshaled for some crime he did not commit. To help defend him they found this crusty old lawyer who insisted on toting a mountain of law books with him wherever he traveled. Kirk asked the old man why he didn’t just use his computer. Holding up a book the lawyer said, “This is where the law is. Not in that homogenized pasteurized synthesized - you want to know the law, the ancient concepts in their own language? …learn the intent of the men who wrote them -Books.” Books are cool.