generation gap

I took my students to see Dan Okrent’s talk on the death of the book at the University of Michigan yesterday. Okrent’s claim, that we should celebrate the possibilities of the e-book rather than lament the end of the book, was fairly simply and straightforward. What was more interesting were the follow-up questions. The room was dominated by some fairly elderly folks, all of whom were eager to ask questions.  Most of them were plaintive. “Will we have no more first editions?” one woman asked. “How will we know an author is special?” My students, and the other younger audience members, were upset. One asked her neighbor, “Do you have to be over 45 to ask a question?” Afterwards there was a lot of grumbling about older people. Okrent had commented on a school in Ghana that used Kindles to the apparent delight of the children. One my students said that in her experience in an African school, tribal leaders resisted technology.  “More old people,” someone muttered. It’s rare these days to encounter the generation gap as anything more than a opportunity for charming jokes.  But there was real frustration in the younger members of this audience, all of whom were the writers of the future. They wanted to talk about information in the marketplace, about readership, about jobs. And they weren’t pleased.

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