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November 25, 2007

The Future of Books

The NPR show "On the Media" is dedicating this week to books. I thought that the first two topics would be particularly relevant to our class, because they consider the impact of technology on books. Specifically, they ask the question are electronic books going to replace traditional paper books? For those of you who are interested, there are a couple of videos at http://www.onthemedia.org/. Please feel free to comment on how you think we will read books in the future and any thoughts you may have on this subject.

In my case, I like the feel of paper in my hands. This may be traditionalist and ignorant of the environmental havoc paper production causes. However, I can only stare at a computer screen for so long. I spend many tedious hours with the screen glaring back at me, as my aching head tells me to avert my eyes. I would much prefer kicking back in an armchair to read a paper book. But who knows if this will be an option in the future.

Posted by leslieph at November 25, 2007 06:41 PM


At this moment, Amazon is heavily promoting Kindle, a new wireless interface reading device whose advanced technology is supposed to simulate the visual qualities/properties of paper (not the texture, of course --Limited Fork studies interactions in visual (any/all forms) systems and tactile systems --among others);

Kindle certainly has texture, but not the texture of paper. And it is a device to hold; there is an expected protocol of intimacy in the use of the device. A book itself is a device.

Anyway, an entire book (100+ pages) can download wirelessly, no computer connection required, in about a minute (or so).

The laptop keyboard on which I'm typing this, by the way, has interacted with my fingers; there's been structural adaptation on the part of the keyboard, adaptation that reveals patterns of use and variance in pressure as keys are depressed, so there are actual depressions in the metal keys, some deeper than others, some more like greatly-reduced scale glacial gouges. Varying degrees of discoloration, some letters completely worn off the keys. So as I use my laptop more, the laptop increasingly responds to the use, becoming more my laptop. It has been marked; I also mark my books, but in different iterations of mark.

At the moment, it is easier to overcome protocols that restrict sharing through digital means.

I have about 4,000 books in my home, and I continue to acquire them, continue to enjoy them (but they are turning my home into a warehouse --not a library because I have no space for the display they deserve, so there's quite a bit of stacking and rotation of books from shelves to stacks on the floor.

An electronic system that would allow linking of texts and passages in my library is quite appealing --and Kindle supports note-taking, cross-referencing, linking, and so forth --that sounds good, but I'm not planning on acquiring Kindle this year. Now if someone gives me one, I'll try it out, eager to see whether or not and/or how quickly it's able to show evidence of tactile interactions with my hands.

I may say more after I've thought about this further.

Thanks for the post, and for the link within it.

Posted by: thyliasm at November 28, 2007 01:27 AM

Here's something else:

Whether or not a manuscript becomes a book free-of-charge to the writer is usually up to book publishers who often have an economic decision to make, and an aconomic reason for making those decisions --I'm not approving/disapporving that right now

because I want to emphasize that some manuscripts are not going to become print books unless the writers absorb some or all of the cost. A variety of online services including/notably Lulu.com and Cafe Press are offering self-publication services, including, especially with Lulu, available (for a fee) distribution services, both domestic and international. --This is quite a shift from the vanity presses of the past. Blurb is offering a service to turn blogs into print books.

So digital means of text production & text delivery (the only way to submit work --for audio and video discs also, and an assortment of 3D objects including T-shirts -- to Lulu, Cafe, Blurb is via digital interface, I believe) are extending/enhancing the life of print objects. The sense of touch itself is powerful, and touch still dominates in how digital devices/materials are used. We get a feel for what we use.

Anyway, both Lulu and Cafe Press offer their authors storefronts and print-on-demand services, so customers can purchase print object or digital versions. Online bookstores (and other cyber retailers) also sell some of the Lulu and Cafe Press merchandise. Blurb, too, has an online store, but last time I checked, no separate storefront for each Blurb author.

Amazon is inviting authors to submit direct-to-Kindle work.

I began this comment with economic choices and conventional publishing (publisher-controlled author work, permission to use portions can be granted/denied by the publisher, usually not by the author) and return now to that tine, the other bifurcations adding texture/context to what follows:

I have amassed a number of manuscripts that my publisher has deemed unmarketable. Now if I insist upon conventional publication, I can revise the work, so that it adheres better to protocols consistent with economic hopes of the publisher for the book (the costs for book production must be recovered, and surely, some reasonable --at a minimum-- profit margin, or I can submit it to other publishers until, if ever, there's acceptance of the ms. on terms mutually agreeable to publisher, author, and, often, also to an agent who will try to negotiate the best contract for a work the agent considers marketable (we all have to eat.

That said, I've set up e-fib e-(forked indie books) where I'm thinking about offering some of my conventionally unmarketable print poams in both electronic and print object forms. I'm also using the blog A Limited Forker Girl's Tines as a place to deliver active content, content in which the behavior and activity of a neural network specifically, and other dynamic systems more generally, is important to the emerging themes.

Work there, such as Neurological Winter, subverts conventional publication protocols and allows display more compatible with the implied structure of the poam; even reveals meanings of structure as well as meanings of content --even renders implied structure active through links and motion graphics.

Posted by: thyliasm at November 28, 2007 02:11 AM

Tine extension:

What about the future of libraries?

Physical space of libraries may not permit the warehousing of all titles, so criteria of selection related to significance, local user need, shared inventory avoiding duplication of certain titles in a region, those books available to customers via loans.

So books are routinely withdrawn from circulation, others added.

And not all books are likely committed to some form of digital preservation.

Physical copies of newspapers may not be stored intact, some? many? not stored at all.

This article, E-books and Their Future in Academic Libraries is from a Journal with content directed toward porfessional librarians.

A few years ago, Nicolson Baker published Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, a book that ignited quite a furor among Librarians, Patrons of libraries, and other lovers of books, including those whose livelihood is book-related.

The following excerpt is from an enraged Library community against Baker's Book:

Pulling no punches, novelist Baker (Vox) is a romantic, passionate troublemaker who questions the smug assumptions of library professionals and weeps at the potential loss of an extensive, pristine run of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. For him, the wholesale destruction of books and newspapers to the twin gods of microfilming and digitization is an issue of administrators seeking storage space not of preserving a heritage. He contends that the alarmist slogans "brittle books" and "slow fires" are intended to obscure the reality and the destruction. Throughout his book, Baker hammers away at the Orwellian notion that we must destroy books and newspapers in order, supposedly, to save them. Particularly singled out for opprobrium are University Microfilms Inc. and the Library of Congress. This extremely well-written book is not a paranoid rant. Just this past October, Werner Gundersheimer, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said at LC's "Preserve and Protect" symposium that, amid all the smoke and fury, Baker was essentially pleading for "a last copy effort of some kind." Double Fold is the narrative of a heroic struggle: Picture Baker as "Offisa Pup" defending "Krazy Kat," of the printed word, against the villainous "Ignatz Mouse" of the library establishment all in glorious, vivid color on brittle (but unbowed) newsprint. Highly recommended for all libraries.
-- Barry Chad, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh; Library Journal, 12/00

The following links go to articles and commentaries that respond to the implications of Baker's expose (that italicized e is a proxy for an accented e) and/or to the death by digital technology of the book:
"Preserving" vs. "Conserving": Librarians and their hatred of paper
Libraries, Books, and Academic Freedom
Can academic freedom survive the death of the book?
A review of Double Fold from Science Matters Bookclub
Do Online Resources Destroy Student Research Papers? by John Jaeger, Reference Librarian
Paper Chase
Nicholson Baker makes a case for saving old books and newspapers
Preservation Advice for Libraries, Historical Societies and Home Collectionsfrom The Connecticut State Library
Q and A in Response to Nicholson Baker's Double Fold from ARL: Association of Research Libraries

These links go a little further out on the tine, but what impact:
Book Autopsies by Brian Dettmer for aesthetic purposes
Hollowed out editions of your favorite books

Posted by: thyliasm at November 28, 2007 06:53 AM

Please go to: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/eng280limitedfork/archives/2007/11/hey_check_this_1.html

for ACTIVE-LINK versions of my comments posted in this blog.

Thank you.

Posted by: thyliasm at November 28, 2007 10:12 AM

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