Paulo Coelho: ‘Technology Won’t Kill Books’

By Silicon Allee |

By Sacha Robehmed at Campus Party Europe

It’s not everyday that the first sentence of a major tech conference keynote mentions the Bible. But then, not every speaker is a quotable, world-renowned author and household name.

From his unique perspective, Paulo Coelho discussed the relationship between technology and literature in his speech at Campus Party Europe in Berlin’s former airport, Tempelhof. When asked about the future of books, he stated that from current ebook readers such as the Kindle, the next step will be a move to mobile. “With this small screen, writers will have to adapt.”

The tech savvy author – who has close to 5.4 million followers on Twitter and over 9.1 million Facebook likes – believes that books won’t die. But in embracing technology, he is an advocate for openly sharing content, stating that publishers, not writers, benefit from copyright.

Coelho began his talk by saying: “Literature was always dependent on technology.” From the papyrus to codex to Gutenberg’s printing press, Coelho drew on history to remind the audience that technology has long been present in writing. He then compared the horror of the monks of Gutenberg’s time with the reaction of publishers today; technological change meant that they suddenly lost control over what was published.

Using insights from his previous work for a record company writing song lyrics, Coelho drew a parallel between the music industry and the current publishing industry. “I saw this gigantic, solid, established industry collapse because they started to fight against the possibility of sharing.” In both instances, he sees the established industries as trying to stop the unstoppable.

“You are the avant-garde, you are who counts at this very moment,” he told the large crowd who had gathered around the main stage. His rallying call to content sharing was very much in the Campus Party spirit, as was obvious when it was subsequently the subject of several questions from the audience.

He provoked laughter with his response: “Of course you do not share everything — you do not share your girlfriend!” But Coelho dismissed fears that people’s ideas would be stolen, saying that all the ideas in the world have already been thought of, and emphasizing the importance of implementation.

Instead, he firmly believes that sharing is a human impulse and instinct. With the romantic, philosophical poeticism which characterizes his books, he compared the devastation of watching a beautiful sunset alone to the fantastic feeling of being in love in a more mundane, less beautiful setting, such as a train station.

Sharing experiences enriches life, he argued: “What I say today is that the more you share, the more you receive.”