In an age where digital has become the world’s most efficient way of communicating and informing, the idea of a universal digital library has been suggested and thoroughly discussed. In “The End of Authorship,” John Updike ridicules the idea of this universal library and the affects it would entail. While Updike makes the point that books should hold their edges, he goes too far when he says that putting literature online would get rid of the idea of a singular and solitary piece of literature.
In his article, Updike makes several references to an article written by Kevin Kelly. Kelly, being a universal library enthusiast, envisions the idea of a book playlist. Much like music playlists, snippets of texts about subjects will be thrown together to form a virtual “bookshelf.” What Kelly and Updike fail to consider, however, is the fact that when a music playlist is made, snippets of songs are not mashed together to form one song. To create a music playlist, songs are taken in their full version to be mixed with other songs in their full versions, thus creating a list of songs that have something in common with another. Songs are meant to stand on their own, and so the idea of a musical playlist works. Books, however, are a completely different story. What Kelly suggests, and what Updike ridicules, is the idea of taking chapters, paragraphs, or even sentences out of context and placing them together to form one piece of literature. This idea is ridiculous, if not impossible. The finished “bookshelf” would only be a combined, jumbled mess of ideas that would have no connection to one another. The combination would be choppy and would not hold any appeal for readers. For this reason, Updike has no need to wor...
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...ling. In that way, society will remain in favor of the author and not allow the demolition of the ownership over literature.
Though Updike makes the valid point that books should hold true to their edges, I disagree when he implies that by putting text online would blur their edges. Due to technological, entertainment, and legal restrictions, placing snippets together would be a near impossibility and therefor would delay, if not diminish, the process of books “feeding” off of each other. While our generation will likely make this transition towards an online library, the respect of authors and their ownership will not become extinct.
Updike, John. "The End of Authorship." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 25 June 2006. Web. 08 Sept. 2011.
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