Book Clubs Conducted in IM: In the Future!

By Neal Comment

Library Journal interviews Ben Vershbow of The Institute for the Future of the Book about the ways that moving online will transform the relationship that books have to their readers and to each others. “Books will literally have discussions inside of them,” Vershbow predicts, “both live chats and asynchronous exchanges through comments and social annotation. You will be able to see who else out there is reading that book and be able to open up a dialog with them.” (Unless, of course, they treat you the same way the people on the subway do when you ask them about the book they’re reading.) But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s cheering Google on in its quest to get all those books into its database:

“Here we have a private company that is coming to rival the Library of Congress in its centrality in the information ecosystem. We have five of the world’s major research institutions offering up substantial portions of their collections for digitization and thousands of librarians apparently ecstatic at the prospect. And yet few seem to be concerned that Google’s search system is nontransparent-that no one but Google knows why search results come up in the order that they do. Frankly, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of an uproar from librarians about this. It seems an affront to their nature as information scientists.”

Like it or not, “the main arena of intellectual discourse is moving away from print to networked, digital media,” Vershbow says, so now’s the time to start thinking about how that discourse is going to take place.