A New Kind of Authorship
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 worry that the traditional idea of a book as a whole would not remain intact.
Along with the idea of a book playlist, Updike has a hard time with literature being considered free-reign. If information is just out there for anyone to take, authors will lose ownership over their work. In this sense, I have to agree. If someone writing a research paper can just take whatever information they need and that is available, then the true author is losing the credit that deserves to be given. That is, as it has been widely accepted and taught, an act of plagiarism. As Updike fails to mention, just because this universal...