The Remains of the Book–Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr – author of The Shallows – has an interesting perspective on e-books, inspired in part by the launch of the new Kindle.

I love physical books and I have a visceral sympathy for his description of edges and the book as a discrete entity in its own right.  There is something complete and timeless (in at least two senses of the word) in nestling down with a volume and losing yourself in the narrative, be it fiction or fact.

I agree also with Carr’s discomfort over Jeff Bezos’ statement that Amazon has “has pre-calculated all of the interesting phrases” in the e-book to optimise retrieval of information.  I am very much reminded of Jaron Lanier’s theme in You Are Not A Gadget that we become constrained and defined by the limits we (inadvertently) place on our perception.  As a lover of music, Lanier’s description of the impact of MIDI resonated with me:

“Before MIDI, a musical note was a bottomless idea that transcended absolute definition…. After MIDI, a musical note was no longer just an idea, but a rigid, mandatory structure…”

However, there is a small part of me that is also excited about the possibilities of a medium that has somewhat fuzzy edges.  What new artistic forms will we see when writers create specifically for such a medium?


About Andrew Munro

An independent business consultant, interim manager and writer, Andrew operates through his company, Burning Pine Ltd (
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