“Web to Book: Drop Dead” – fun but jarring, this was one of the headlines amid the growing barrage of news stories and books about the imminent death of the written word and the inevitable migration of our personal and collective knowledge and memory to machines. Is the book as we know it really dead? Is the question even important in an always-on, digital world? I set out on a quest to find out what it means to us as individuals, and as a society, to have the ability to answer nearly any question at lightning speed, anywhere, and at any time.
The interconnectivity of the architecture of information became evident with the first interview: the bookseller led to the author, which led to the publisher, to the librarian, the reader, the pirate web site, the educator, the cognitive scientist; issues of copyright, preservation, knowledge, democratization, and diversity of access and sources were all intertwined. “Is the book dead?” was simply the starting point to get to the bottom of a transformation that ultimately affects every aspect of our society. A riveting debate involving Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, Authors Guild President and best-selling novelist Scott Turow, and Harvard Librarian Robert Darnton about the questions confronting the word industry helped me weave order as I tackled the core issues of the future of ideas. These are issues that impact the very essence of our civilization, and I hope that the clarity that Out of Print offers is a starting point around which we can engage in a candid and fruitful discussion that will help direct our future.