Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

The multitude of books is making us ignorant.


I think Volatire lived a long time ago (correct! born in 1694 in fact); so I wonder how he would feel about the multitude of books we have at our disposal these days?

It never ceases to amaze me when I walk into great bookshops (I'm thinking Rosetta Books in Maleny, Kinokuniya in Singapore, Powell's in Portland for example) just how many books there are. How many books get published, how many ideas get written down and printed and shared.  I guess maybe the ISBN  could tell us something about how many book titles there are in the world; but I'm sure it would be a number beyond my capacity to imagine.

I replaced books in Voltaire's quote with 'information' and found myself in total agreement with the man! We were just talking the other day about how we wanted to balance some of our political reading matter - get both sides of the story more often rather than just the slightly biased view from here or there.  We thought of some options and then just went - when would we fit that in? We have enough trouble now sifting the information we receive in inboxes and on the web and in the mail and in the newspaper.

I fear a little bit that the oft-spoken about information overload will in fact make us dumber - we will be unable to keep up with it all and as a result may choose to withdraw or ignore information; filter it out using the 'no time filter' rather than having the time to ingest it, ponder it and debate it. Perhaps that is how it felt in the early 1700s with printing presses producing more books and people not being able to read them all in depth.

The more things change, the more they stay the same (John-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) perhaps?

©2008 Fiona Dempster - art in Copenhagen


  1. F- maybe we can also say the multitude of books makes us stronger and wiser as we are forced to make conscious decisions about what we will and won't read and the areas of knowledge in which we will achieve some depth and those we will avoid or just skim? B

  2. this month on 'first tuesday book club' (ABC TV) the topic was 'the future of books' and a small debate ensued between the various folk..... information overload was mentioned in the context that recent research seems to be showing that human brains are actually altering in response to the quickly-quickly info overload of an always wired world.....

    food for thought wot?!

  3. Yes, we do often suffer from 'information overload'. Your comment about a balanced view is moot. Politics is largely out of our control, mainly because the only people who ever govern us are career politicians, not real people.

    I like your choice for the photo.

  4. i struggle around this issue, too. too many books, too many words out of people's heads. and this may be why i like artists' books so much, they are precious interchanges between someone who is trying to communicate through images and/or words. that much commitment means something.

  5. B- yes I think there is always that duality - and perhaps its good to take control and feel positive about it.

    Ronnie - yes I've read about some of that research where our brains are adapting to skimming...weird science.

    Jo - I sometimes think I would be a better judge of the parties if I had a more balanced view...but perhaps they're not worth it!

    Velma - an interesting reflection; the artists' books are much more personal and a direct attempt to transfer meaning in a unique way.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.