December 31, 2011

Books That Are Never Done Being Written

}} Tag It: Changing Us

DIGITAL TEXT is ushering in an era of perpetual revision and updating, for better or worse.

Once digitized, a page of words loses its fixity. It can change every time it's refreshed on a screen. A book page turns into something like a Web page, able to be revised endlessly after its initial uploading. There's no technological constraint on perpetual editing and the cost of altering digital text is basically zero.

That's attractive in many ways. It makes it easy for writers to correct errors and update facts. Guidebooks will no longer send travelers to restaurants that have closed. The instructions to manuals will always be accurate.

Even literary authors will be tempted to keep their works fresh. Historians will be able to revise their narratives to account for new information. Novelists will be able to scrub away the little anachronisms that can make even a recently published story feel dated.

But as often the case with digitization, the boon carries a bane. The ability to alter the contents of a book will be easy to abuse. School boards may come to exert even greater influence over what students read. They'll be able to edit textbooks that don't fit with local biases. Governments will be able to tweak books to suit their political interests.

>Read more about books that are never done being written here

No comments: