Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On McLuhan, Media, and Free Books

Marshall McLuhan is spinning in his grave.  

A recent Facebook conversation on children's literature had me remembering back to classes at the University of Louisville where I was bombarded with the writings of that particular communication theorist who famously stated "The medium is the message."  McLuhan predicted the end of the written/printed word.  He is credited with prophesying of the Worldwide Web before it came into being and of coining the term surfing, randomly moving from one thing to the next in research or, in our case, while playing on the www. -  World Wide Waste of Time.  

McLuhan suggested the electronic media would create a global tribal community where we would develop a collective identity instead of the fragmentation and individualism of the old print media which produced, he maintained, such concepts as capitalism, nationalism and democracy.  He even suggested Protestantism was brought about by the print media.  (This is probably true.  What would have come of Luther's 95 theses if a printing press hadn't been available to distribute them to the masses?)

While McLuhan maintained the digital world would produce a more collectivist mindset, I think the opposite is happening.  Print media hasn't disappeared; it has evolved.  Digital books still maintain their bookish essence in that you still "flip the page" of your Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.  Digital books still support a democratization of sorts as eBooks are on the whole cheaper than their hard-copy cousins thus allowing access to more people. Digital lending libraries are beginning to pop up..   Individualism is still encouraged as each "ism", hobby, political view, etc., can cheaply and quickly spread its message to its particular segment of interested parties. And, last but not least, Protestantism, as well as other religious perspectives, is still being supported by the medium as the Web offers evangelistic opportunities in areas that may be politically forbidden to missionary efforts. 

Taking its cue from England, the literary world is shouting, "The Book is dead!  Long Live the Book!"  The written word continues.  The e-Readers have even made the activity cool again.  Sorry, Marshall.

To cheaply enjoy the evolved book, check out Amazon's free Kindle books here,   You can subscribe to a variety of clearinghouse sites for cheap e-books such as BookBub.  [Disclaimer:  I've found the occasional gem on BookBub, but most of the time its offerings are drivel. To subscribe, you have to have the patience to wait days for an interesting offer.]  There's also FreeBooks.com which offers a wide range of genres and includes some great books such as Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators and  Days of Vengeance.  A quick search of the web will reward you with lots of sources for digitized classics.

1 comment:

Alisa said...

Another publisher giving libraries access to their books: http://www.wkyt.com/news/national/headlines/Hachette-Book-Group-expands-library-e-catalog-205586021.html