Margaret Atwood
Cover of Margaret Atwood

In this charming talk from the most recent O’Reilly Tools of Change conference, Margaret Atwood uses some clever and delightful illustrations to get her points across, including one in which she argues that every technology has a sharp side (or “upside,” the blade of a knife), a dull side (or “downside,” the back edge of a knife), and a stupid side (the resulting point of a knife). The stupid side is where the unintended consequences — like stabbing — come from.

A main point is that entire ecosystems depend on the creative work of authors. And while authors may only require the occasional cheese sandwich, many professionals — reviewers, librarians, publishers — feast on the corpses authors leave behind.

It’s 21-minute talk (the rest of the time is for Q&A), and I think it’s worth watching and consistently interesting and/or amusing.

In an unsurprising addition — Atwood is, after all, a writer — her own blog contains a nice summary of the session, including this little gem:

The book is not dead. Reading is not dead. The human interest in stories is not dead. But we are in the midst of a sea change in transmission tools, the likes of which we have not seen since the Gutenberg print revolution. As with that historical moment, there was a lot of turmoil, and nobody could foresee all the consequences.

The model of publishing is changing. Atwood proves that a thoughtful author is worth her weight in gold.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.

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Discussion

1 Thought on "Margaret Atwood & Cheese Sandwiches — If Authors Starve, Look Who Else Starves, Too"

Likening present change to the advent of the printing press was in a strange way comforting.

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