High-Tech Reading

Seeking information or insights that might be of value to VT KnowledgeWorks companies or readers of Inside VT KnowledgeWorks, I studied the entire 6/9/08 18-page print section of the Wall Street Journal on its sixth annual All Things Digital conference. 

I read interviews with Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, Jerry Yang and Susan Decker of Yahoo, and Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft

What struck me was the difference between what these individuals predict for the future, and how I live my life today.

Jeff Bezos on the way we read:

"Over some time horizon, books will be read on electronic devices. Physical books won’t completely go away, just as horses haven’t completely gone away. But there is no sinecure for any technology. If you think about books, it’s astonishing. It’s very hard to find a technology that has remained in mostly the same form for 500 years. And anything that has stubbornly resisted improvement for 500 years is going to be hard to improve."

"[With the Kindle], We’re not trying to displace people’s love of that physical object that is the book. It’s a hallowed invention. The thing to keep in mind is what’s really important is not the container, it’s the narrative. Long-form reading is important for our society."

Rupert Murdoch’s comments on the future of newspapers:

"I just love communicating with people, and newspapers are a means of doing so. I am totally technically neutral about it. I don’t care what platform our news appears on–if it is on printed paper or if it is on the Web or mobile or whatever."

In answer to a question from the audience, Are there any solutions [to local news organizations really struggling]?

"Yeah, just produce better papers, papers that people want to read. Stop having people write articles to win Pulitzer Prizes. Give people what they want to read and make it interesting."

I did not read these words on a Kindle or on a mobile device or on a computer screen.  I read the Wall Street Journal, then the local The Roanoke Times the old-fashioned way–by turning print pages while lying in bed.

[Added at 7:30 AM:  Just saw Seth Godin’s thoughts on the Kindle in  my Google Reader.]

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