Thursday, February 9, 2012

Who Changed My eBook?

I’m finding it hard to get too worked up about Jonathan Franzen’s comments about eBooks being a threat to our society. I’m not sure that anyone really took them too seriously. (As Eric mentioned, the best reaction to this is from the comments of that article: "While I actually agree with him, not through any coherently constructed argument but on simple instinct and principle, he is such an insufferable bore that I am inclined to go out and purchase a Kindle out of sheer spite." Note that IMO his New Yorker fiction podcast solidified my opinion of him as just that.)

However, I believe he did make some good points around the archival of digital versions of content that got lost in the shuffle. Luckily, Alyssa Rosenberg writing in Think Progress takes up some of the arguments here, and while she makes some good points, I’d like to rebut with a few of my own:
  • She mentions some of the more egregious content changes in recent memory (Han shot first: still infuriating) but the flip side of this argument is that sometimes content changes are made for the better. To choose a few examples just off the top of my head – can anyone honestly argue that the Director’s Cut of Bladerunner is honestly better than the commercial version with that godawful voice over? Or that one version of the numerous versions of Walt Whitman’s Blades of Grass is better than another? (And don’t tell me that you’re read and compared the different versions because you’d be a liar.) Content change is neither implicitly good nor bad.
  • I think she’s being naive when she twrites that “people’s vigilance will keep content providers honest.” She writes this when the technology is new and people are fascinated with it. When the technology gets old and commonplace and people take advantage of it – as they invariably will – this vigilance will either end or be the province of a small group of people who can’t possibly keep track of everything.
What do you think?

Cross Posted on Thought Ambience.

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