Monday, May 22, 2006

The Technorati Take On The Literati

Today's had a provocative article about the cultural clash between print publishing and digital publishing. Entitled "Explosive Words" it was written by Bob Thompson, who says, "The technorati are thrilled at the way computers and the Internet are revolutionizing the world of books. The literati fear that, amid the revolutionary fervor, crucial institutions and core values will be guillotined."

The chatter at the BookExpo was John Updike's talk on Saturday morning. Instead of promoting his own new novel (Terrorist), Updike took on the technorati, heaping scorn on Google's efforts to create a "universal library." Pointing out that "books traditionally have edges," he rallied the booksellers, saying, "Defend your lonely forts. Keep your edges dry. Your edges are our edges. For some of us, books are intrinsic to our human identity." Updike got a standing ovation.

If Updike was the spokesman for the literati, Caroly Fiorina (who used to be the CEO over at HP) was the spokesperson for the technorati. Her presentation was entitled "The Future of Publishing in the Digital Age." She warned publishers that "There are a whole set of choices in front of you," and "my guess is that not everyone will survive and not everyone will thrive."

Publishers Weekly also commented on Fiorina's talk. Using digital photography to show how quickly technology can change, she pointed out that "five years ago, the notion of zapping digital images among gadgets like cell phones and PDAs . . . would have seemed impossible. She said that, ultimately, 'technology is transforming every industry and it can be resisted, but it can't be stopped.'"

Fiorina's statements are eerily similar to comments she made over three years ago at a conference in Amsterdam: "Over the last couple of years, technology actually is becoming even more deeply woven into the fabric of our businesses and our lives. I think there is a clearer understanding today that no matter what business you are in, technology is the business—and that the smart application of technology increasingly will determine winners from losers."

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