Are e-books damaging society?

Jonathan Franzen seems to think so.

Andrew Sullivan’s readers ponder the issue.  Some of their points are relevant to my post Is the Internet Forever? One of them says:

I don’t know that I buy Jonanthan Franzen’s argument that the future of democracy depends on the survival of the physical book and I understand the great utility of ebooks. However, there is a great deal to be said for keeping the printed page alive.  If its language is English, I can pick up a 400-year-old book and read it. A floppy disc from ten years ago is useless to me.  Your assumption that the cloud will somehow always be there to provide continuity of knowledge strikes me as naïve.  Technological failures on a grand scale do not seem all that improbable, given the history of the world and of mankind. Too, if we are left to rely on others to keep the knowledge intact for us, then they have control over what is kept and what is erased and to what we have access.  I say, long live the book.

An issue not raised in the discussion is disintermediation (one of my favorite words).  With printed books, there is the publisher (at least) between the author and his or her potential readers (unless you want to self-publish, at great cost and with no obvious form of distribution).  Amazon and friends will publish just about any damn thing, as long as it’s not pornography and it’s formatted properly.  That’s got to be a good thing.

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