When John Updike approached the lectern in the Convention Center ballroom Saturday morning, most of his bleary-eyed, coffee-swilling audience expected him to talk about his latest novel, "Terrorist." ... [W]ithout warning, he opened fire on the technorati.We were just talking about that article here. Remember? It's the one about how authors are going to have to give up on the technology-conquered idea that they can make money selling copies of their writings.
"I read last Sunday, and maybe some of you did too, a quite long article by a man called Kevin Kelly," he began.
Updike went on at some length, heaping scorn on Kelly's notion that authors who no longer got paid for copies of their work could profit from it by selling "performances" or "access to the creator." ("Now as I read it, this is a pretty grisly scenario.")Meanwhile, a guy named Tom Turvey -- his nickname must be Topsy -- is there from Google, promoting Google's Book Search project.
Unlike the commingled, unedited, frequently inaccurate mass of "information" on the Web, he said, "books traditionally have edges." But "the book revolution, which from the Renaissance on taught men and women to cherish and cultivate their individuality, threatens to end in a sparkling pod of snippets.
"So, booksellers," he concluded, "defend your lonely forts. Keep your edges dry. Your edges are our edges. For some of us, books are intrinsic to our human identity."
Told of Updike's criticism, he suggested that there's a bit of an "apples and oranges" thing going on.And Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. With a book to sell -- "iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: Getting to the Core of Apple's Inventor" -- it's not clear if he belongs to the literati or the technorati faction. Asked about the Kelly article, he just says: "It's like everybody's scrambling to figure out how it falls out... and I don't know how it falls out." That sounds like a good condition to have your mind in.
"For novelists and trade publishers that publish books to be read sequentially," he said, the utility of searching within a book's content is harder to understand. But this kind of book is a minority, and a lot of publishers know that they can increase their sales by allowing searches that lead potential customers to texts they otherwise might never have found.