Books Net Culture

The Anti-Library

November 23, 2015

Word on the Street (2009) ― Vancouver: Book and Magazine Festival

“A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool: Read books are far less valuable than unread ones.

The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.” ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

Mike Dariano over at The Writers Pad recently wrote a listed of knowledge he’s gleaned from listening to Shane Parris’s conversations with Chris Dixon (the conversations are part of an ongoing series available as the Knowledge Project podcast).

Chris spoke about three different ‘mental modes’ we use when interacting with Twitter’s community of never-ending stream of tweets, and I’m inclined to agree with his third point that it’s better to “have it work for you.” To quote Chris, “Essentially I have two thousand of the smartest people in the world finding information for me and telling me what to read,” and depending on the ‘network’ you’re subscribed to, this is true for many of the people using Twitter. Twitter is an effective and free method of active sourcing & hoarding of knowledge.

Which brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this post about libraries. Nassim quote above is from Umberto Eco, on the type of reactions he gets from visitors when they encounter his private library for the first time. Those who were on the insider track of knowing books were there as a resource for reading ‘later’ (is knowledge-accessible a real term?), were, understandably, commiserating with Umberto once they saw how many books there were.

I think we can say the same about modern RSS readers, coffee-table books, & never-ending Instapaper queues.

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