At the threshold of a new era | Gutenberg in the Cyberstorm | DW | 18.12.2014
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Gutenberg in the Cyberstorm

At the threshold of a new era

A storm is raging around the book, the Internet, and the way we think. What value will the book have in the digital age? The executive producer and director share their thoughts.

Digitalization has long become part of our culture and our everyday lives. It is increasingly impacting our behavior and our thinking.

Linear thought is now a thing of the past. These days we can access any number of massive data collections in milliseconds and stumble through a flood of information, offers and attractions that - until recently - never used to exist.

This far-reaching development is becoming increasingly visible through the upheaval within the book market. In the US, the e-book is already well established; readers take for granted that they have allowed themselves to become transparent; and bookstores are disappearing.

German and American authors have joined together to protest the giant online retailer Amazon and defend the value of the book which they hold so dear. Other authors and intellectuals, on the other hand, celebrate the new digital opportunities that are changing the way we publish books and read them.

The storm around the book and its future is raging with particular vehemence in Germany and the United States. While many Germans tend to be skeptical of new technological developments, Americans are often curious and uninhibited in their approach. A culture of analog thinkers meets digital expansion.

We've worshipped the outdated book for much too long, says American media expert Jeff Jarvis as he praises the possibilities of crowdsourcing. What will become of humanity when we turn thinking over to machines, counters Austrian bestseller author Marc Elsberg.

And Internet philosopher Jaron Lanier, winner of this year's Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, warns that society can easily be manipulated in our brave new big data world.

"We have this situation where the book has become something that is reading you instead of you reading the book," he says.

We are in the midst of a debate on the drastic cultural changes we are currently witnessing. We cannot yet predict where they'll lead. But it's time to consider the issues at stake - and their potential consequences.

Susanne Lenz-Gleissner, author and director
Rolf Rische, producer