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Monday, November 16, 2015

Is There A Scarcity Of Knowledge Even With An Abundance of Books?



What if we lived in a society where books were scarce and a resource that got rationed?  Sure it seems hard to imagine such a scenario when Amazon offers millions of titles for sale and authors by the cruise ship load make their books available for free, but perhaps there will be a day when books are a prized source and only a handful will read them.

I guess the last time that happened was in the early days of book printing, where only the powerful, super wealthy, and the very educated had access to books.  They became the disseminators of what they read, choosing what and when to share or impart such knowledge.  They used information and ideas as powerful tools to build their lives while suppressing the lives of others.

Our abundance of books today could lead to a time where knowledge falls in the hands of just a few.  How, you say?

Because there are so many books out there we now have an excess of choice, and as a result, few of us read the same book. Many people know different things, and few enjoy the same common core knowledge.  It’s similar to the rest of culture with films, television shows, and blogs.  We are overwhelmed, even burdened, by a flood of ideas, information, and stories.  Can we keep up?

So what is happening is books that should be read by everyone only get read by a few million or a few thousand people. We won’t be on the same page, and thus, we’ll have a society that’s both knowledgeable and yet ignorant.

From a wealth of information, society may actually become less educated.

Now, let’s look at something else.  Even though so many books are available to everyone, people don’t make the time to read as many books as they busy themselves with social media, other forms of entertainment, other types of media, and simply other things to do.  As a result, society lets the reading take place by a handful of people that it hopes will then tell us what to do, think, or feel. We rely on book reviewers or others to share what they read and give us a summary.  So what results?  We have an awareness of a concept or an event, but no real in-depth understanding of it.

Who would have thought more books leave our country dumber, but in some ways they do.  We didn’t even get to the part that many books suffer from errors, intended bias, or insufficient research, leaving the quality of their content in question.  Now we have people consuming information that’s wrong, incomplete, or manipulated to meet a political or economic agenda.

Okay, so the solution is not necessarily publishing fewer books or having more readers.  What we need is for people to read more books and more of the same books so that we all have a foundation to share and build from.  Further, we need books to be rated, catalogued, and vetted better.

The rating needs to indicate warnings about whether a book is poorly written/edited or contains errors, missing facts, or a distortion of things.

The catalog part means we need a better way to find book titles by genre and topic than exists now, and to have a way to compare them.

The vetting should happen before the book is published.  Books shouldn’t be put out unless they are ready to be read.  Unfortunately just as society allows any idiot o be a parent, anyone can publish a book.  I don’t know that we’d license writers, but they do need training.

If we leave things as is we’ll continue to concentrate knowledge in the hands of a select few, and such knowledge could be based on reading the wrong books, too few books, or books that should never have been published in the first place.

Too much of a good thing is not bad, but we must do a better job of making sure that:

·         Books that are published are accurate, clear, well-edited, and unbiased.
·         We properly catalog books so people can find or discover them.
·         We find a way to agree to read at least some of the same books so that society is grounded in the same foundation of ideas and information.
·         We encourage more readers.
·         We inspire current readers to read more.
·         The books that get published don’t get lost in a sea of books.

One day the scarcity that used to exist for books may not come, but there could be a day where, from a book abundance comes a scarcity of societal knowledge.  But we can get off such a course if we make corrections now.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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