Further Reading on the Apocalypse (er, the internet)

by Patrick on March 12, 2009

Last week, I posted about Cory Doctorow’s book Content, and how self-publishing and self-promoting works in the internet era (or whatever we’re all calling this era).  Danica was interested enough to ask what other books were available on the subject.  I’ve been busy, but I decided that I’d put together a post about it.  The books and blogs and blog posts below all offer some take on the future of how we read words, whether they’re written on paper or an electronic screen.  I can’t vouch for all the books, as I haven’t read them all, but I’ll do my best to give an idea of what each title is about.

  • Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky.  This book examines the ways people use technology and what that means for the future of various industries, including publishing.  Shirky describes it as “a book about organizing without organizations.”  He’s kind of a doom-and-gloomer about the future of the printed word (on paper, that is), but he’s very persuasive.  The New York Times blog Paper Cuts posted this morning about a panel Shirky will be participating in at SXSW.  See also:  herecomeseverybody.org.
  • The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen.  For an even more pessimistic take on how “Web 2.0” (this term is almost certainly quote-worthy, as it seems nearly meaningless now) is “destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.”  Personally, I’m skeptical of anyone who claims that something is destroying our culture or our values.  To paraphrase a Hanns Johst, when I hear the phrase “destroying our culture,” that’s when I reach for my mouse.  Keen points out that newspapers are losing revenue and continue to give away their content online for free.  The logical conclusion to this – that newspapers will cease to be – is something that has recently come up on David Carr’s blog at the New York Times with a hardy agreement from local pundit Larry Wilson and  a rebuttal coming from Daniel Gilmore at Boing Boing (be sure to read the very intelligent and very even-handed comments, too).  If newspapers don’t exist, how will journalists be paid to report the news?  These are the slippery slopes Keen describes in the book.  You can read more of his work at his blog, The Great Seduction.
  • On the subject of e-books and electronic publishing, one of the most interesting posts written about it is “The Future of Reading:  A Play in Six Acts.” There are now 250 comments on the post, which are also well worth your time.
  • Free Culture and Remix, by Lawrence Lessig.  Nobody writes about copyright better than Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford and a columnist for WiredFree Culture looks at “the cold war between media companies and new technology,” while Remix offers a future where creative people can prosper without restricting access to their work.  Further reading at Lessig.org.
  • Cory Doctorow.  This post started with him, so it seems fitting to end it with him as well.  Be sure to read his posts on Boing Boing, which frequently address copyright and other issues dealing with the junction of creativity and technology.  Further reading:  craphound.com.  And this will be the last post about Doctorow for awhile, I promise.

Of course, this list is wildly incomplete.  If you’ve got anything else we should be reading, please leave a comment.