Farms, Computers, Books, and Kindles

The computer was thought by many people to promise a decentralized economy. Because of this cheap and easy technology, small businesses would fill the garden of our economy like chives. Maybe they would have under different circumstances, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the computer enables elephants to stomp around in the garden.

To see the reason for this, compare the world of the computer to a farm: the farm sits on the earth, and the earth is owned by nobody.

The computer operates on software, and that software is owned by previously unimaginably gigantic corporations. It is as if Bill Gates bought the whole earth, leased a percentage to Steve Jobs, and couldn’t control some fellow named Linux. Now everybody who wants a farm is a serf on the Gates Latifundia.

This helps to explain why the computer has brought about a centralized, rather than a decentralized, economy.

Now the same pattern is being applied to the book.

Once upon a time, there were many publishers. Now there are relatively few. With the computer, anybody can publish his own book, as long as he uses a platform like Lulu, a company with whom I will never again even consider doing business. But don’t think that self-publishing equates to being a publisher.

With the kindle the book itself is being located on a centralized platforms. Barnes and Noble and others have created competing platforms, but not very many. Think about that.

The control of publication and therefore of thought is in ever fewer hands. I am altogether uncomfortable with where this will take us.

I will not buy a kindle because i don’t want to empower this kind of centralization. the convenience does not interest me, because I don’t think that what reading is for.


One Response

  1. I am not interested in buying a kindle because I’ve always enjoyed the feel and smell of books as well as what they contain. Even cheap paperbacks have their place. I agree that reading is not about convenience. In fact, reading has always seemed to me to be an inconvenient, leisurely thing to do, which may explain why so few people do it anymore. But I hadn’t thought about the idea of publication being in only a few hands. That is a chilling thought, especially in a society which seems increasingly unwilling to tolerate differences of opinions and ideas.

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