Re: Can We Throw Away the Books Yet?
- From: John Mark Ockerbloom <ockerblo@[redacted]>
- Subject: Re: Can We Throw Away the Books Yet?
- Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 15:18:44 -0400
Richard Seltzer wrote:
> I suspect that the requirement to use electronic texts will come first in
> legal situations that require "due diligence". Next expect such a
> requirement for Ph.D. theses in fields like history and literature, for only
> by using electronic texts can you be sure that your research is thorough
I've been told (but I don't remember by who) this is already the case for
many topics in early English literature. Just about every significant
English book before 1700 (it may by now be 1800) is now transcribed in a
subscription database, and there are certain questions (like the
first usage of certain words or phrases) where your research isn't considered
credible unless you've done electronic corpus searches to see whether
you've missed something.
But if you've found something unusual, you'll still want to check the
original, or at the very least a high-quality facsimile (which cou;d
be digital) from a trusted source, to make sure you haven't staked your
thesis on a mistranscription.
One thing that's very important to remember when considering the library
of the future, or the present, is that people have all kinds of different
purposes for using them. The media and techniques that might make the
most sense for legal research (the subject of the article that started
off this thread) might not be the same ones that make the most sense for
etymological, literary, or medical research. Similarly, the sorts of
tools, metadata, and services one might find most useful for quick lookups
or pleasure reading might be quite different from the ones used
for pedagogy, or in-depth research.
In our drive to build new libraries for the world, or renovate old libraries
for scholarship, we need to remember the diversity of our audiences and
their needs. I'm very enthusiastic about the work being done in scanning,
transcribing, organizing, and widely distributing the literature of the world,
to better satisfy many of these needs. I'm similarly hoping very much that
we collectively keep around copies of the original print artifacts for when
we need them.