Books Get It On – Still Best Source Out There
Early Views of Key Science, Current Affairs Tomes
Three Picks From New Titles
Supremacy of the printed book
As anyone who works seriously with any area of research and scholarship knows, the physical book remains the finest source on almost any topic, an invaluable storehouse of the best ideas and data available.
There are two main reasons for this continuing reign, we suggest. Authors put their heart and soul into their books, and happily take personal responsibility for their quality and usefulness. The result is that printed books have higher quality content than other media in terms of breadth and depth of research and independent perspective on important issues.
Printed books also tend to be more novel and original in their approach and inhabit the cutting edge of their topics more often than group discussions on stage or television, where the demands of politesse and reputation – not to mention media politics – discourage too much novelty and difference in views.
Crowd sourced and group serviced Wikipedia entries do well enough if they are well maintained. Even so, Wikipedia entries may be up to date on basic information but rarely as new, comprehensive and well thought out as a book, which is almost always more than a collection of Wiki entries.
Why books are still best
Needless to say, the information in a physical book is far easier to manage mentally except for searching for an individual name or phrase, the one thing for which electronic versions are ideal. The main thrust of an author’s determination is to produce a physical book, which the serious reader will prefer for reading, review and reference for myriad reasons.
One is that the hands on mode not only aids the memory enormously with its tactile and visual cues but also it enables markings of important or beloved portions with pencil, Post-It or a real movable and often pretty Bookmark which allow reference faster even than electronic search, in fact instantaneously.
Vast market though science boom fading
This manageability is undoubtedly why the printed book is not fading away in favor for the e-book but is still vast in terms of sheer numbers in most categories. Despite a huge falloff in the business of reprinting public domain titles the number of printed books from traditional publishers in the US rose in 2011 to about 350,000, according to Bowker, though the gain of 6% was entirely caused by the boom in self publishing. Self-published books totaled 211,269 in both ebook and printed form while traditional houses maintained print output level.
Sadly, science books declined 13 per cent in 2011 but nonetheless we found many exceptional titles at the BEA last year in finished or proof form, heralding the bumper crop of bestsellers in the present season. We expect the same this year, when the BEA runs from Wednesday May 29 to Saturday June 1st, with exhibits displayed from Thursday May 30 and accommodating consumers on the final day.
Titles in the pipeline
Here are three stellar picks from the proofs pipeline:
- Breakpoint: Why The Web Will Implode, Search Will Be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know About Technology is in Your Brain, by Jeff Stibel (Palgrave Macmillan Jul 23)
Stibel is a brain (neuro) scientist and chairman of BrainGate which uses chips to allow the disabled to control electronics with thoughts. He predicts that all networks reach a breaking point and collapse, like MySpace, and that will include Facebook and Google. Stibel (also CEO of the Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp and on the board of Brown’s Entrepreneurship program Tuft’s Gordon Institute and USC’s Innovation Institute) seems the right, realistic guide to the creative destruction of the Internet, and he makes some intriguing predictions, such as the emergence of megabrains fueled by crowdsourcing, all inspired by his study of ants and termite colonies, among other things which point the way to a future where networked quality will replace quantity.
- Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection by Ethan Zuckerman (Norton, June 17)
One of Foreign Policy’s top 100 Global Thinkers, Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, and an Internet activist who blogs at a high level on policy and trends. He maps the current state of the Internet and explains why it has yet to form a truly connecting community and what we have to do to establish one worldwide. Early blurbs by friendly colleagues include ““Weaving a rich tapestry of stories, data, and theories, Rewire challenges many of our core assumptions about globalization and connectedness and how the Internet affects us. It is a book well worth reading.” and “No one is in a better position than MIT and Harvard’s Ethan Zuckerman to confront the Internet’s failure to connect us across cultures. Zuckerman’s astounding range, careful reasoning, and superb storytelling make Rewire an essential and urgent read,” but our copy indicates that his enlightened and wide ranging survey is a little long winded and its final conclusions too general to please an impatient reader.
- The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers by Curtis White (Melville May 28 2013)
White is a novelist and essayist and social critic stretching from Harpers to Playboy, whose previous book The Middle Mind was praised by the wide ranging literary bright light David Foster Wallace as acute, beautiful and true. He tilts at those who have rejected religion in favor of science as the answer to all questions on morality, creativity and the origin of life and existence, which he feels ignores the riches of philosophy that emerged in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and urges that we miove away fronm “scientism” and its material reductionism and take up Romanticism as something our technology obsessed society desperately needs.
Whether this is a justified argument for more humanity in our lives or whether it strays into the usual liberal confusion between the internal and external world in urging that we use our imagination more for solace and community remains to be seen, but the title is attractively provocative. Scientists have been known for a long time to be emotionally truncated, like doctors, in the service of their profession. Luckily emotions have entered the analysis of studies from economics to psychology over the last half century and even scientists now seem to generally understand that we share with other animals a brain body connection that can never be separated, and in fact should be emphasized and celebrated.
It is not easy to see that Curtis White goes beyond this truism from a cursory look at the proof, which demands a careful read to capture its gist. But he is billed as urging more poetry and philosophy in our public discussions, and no one educated would argue with that in an era where cost cutting is erasing the arts in many schools across the US.