Re: Can we throw away the books yet?
- From: Michael Hart <hart@[redacted]>
- Subject: Re: Can we throw away the books yet?
- Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2007 11:13:26 -0700 (PDT)
On Thu, 9 Aug 2007, Smith, Robert E. wrote:
> Dear Friends:
> As one of those folk who is busy turning print into
> electrons, you may find my opinion below a bit odd, but
> then again, I'm a librarian! 8-)
From the above I'm not sure if it's Rev. Bob who is "busy
turning print into elecrons" or us. . .hee hee!
> There are two questions packed into this subject line,
> really. One is: will people continue to publish and read
> physical books in the future. The short answer is yes.
Yes, but changing, and changing faster than pundits admit.
> From the 1970s to date, more copies of books have been
> published than in all the years before it.
I have heard this in reference to the first half century
of The Gutenberg Press, but never for modern times. . .!
What would be the Big Push from 1970 to 2007, only 2/3 a
period as long as mentioned above, that would explain an
extraordinary spike in publishing?
And one further question on that:
Even if the "publishing is going up like that" which I'm
sad to say I find hard to believe in terms of books I am
likely to find at Border's or Barnes & Noble, what is it
in terms of actual reading?
I've heard the amount of reading is falling dramatically
in terms of such a short period, so are there publishers
who are simply publishing for the record, not to read?
> Until such time as a reading device people actually like
> to use comes along, I'm willing to guess this will remain
I'm going to step out on a limb and say it is already here
in terms of the cell phone, which is passing the 3 billion
mark as we speak, far greater than all computers, PDAs and
all the other possible eBook readers combined!
Thus the "connected" now outnumber the "not connected."
> (Although having read all about the paperless society
> when I was in college twenty-five years ago, I'm hesitant
> to prophecy!). What I do know is publishing will always
> remain, even if it is only among those who do it for
> art's sake. There are still books published on
> Gutenberg-like, take-each-character-from-the-font, hand
> operated presses, done for the enjoyment of the artist
> and appreciative subscribers.
Since "publication" comes from the term "to make public,"
I am going to argue that the kind of "publication" above,
as nice as it is, and with as many friends as I have in a
similar "publishing" situation, that it isn't publication
in the true sense if it doesn't reach the public.
Just as I challenged the "publishing" of more books since
1970 than in all previous years. . . .
"A book is a form of communication. If it fails as such,
then it has failed in the essential of bookness and isn't
actually being a book. . .more like a potential book."
[for those who remember what potential energy is]
> The other is, will we throw them away? The answer there
> is no, too. It is a library adage that "old formats don't
> pass away, they just move to compact shelving."
Given that it is an established fact that more books were
printed int he first 50 years of The Gutenberg Press, had
we not better ask ourselves where they all went???
Even though I have seen vastly more book than the average
I have hardly ever seen examples of those millions of the
first 50 years of The Gutenberg Press. . . .
If anyone would care to send me some. . . !
> In our new library building, which we are in design of as
> we speak, we will have a room to preserve rare books,
> some of which have paper that looks like it was hand made
> from rags yesterday, with characters sharply impressed in
> ink blacker than the darkest coal - but was published 500
> years ago. There are in museums and libraries world-wide
> texts in all the formats Michael rattled off - stone,
> clay tablets, parchments, papyrus, scrolls, codices,
> manuscript, vellum, rag paper from the Gutenberg and
> Wittenberg presses, microfilm, microcard, etc. The irony
> is that only the dead formats of the last fifty years
> are, practically speaking, really dead (eight track tapes
> and 5 1/4" floppies. We librarians just add the new
> formats alongside the old and keep going...
Exactly my point.
These items are in museums and archives, not out there
in the real world.
Here's just one odd example that followed me home, honest!
I was at a garage sale earlier this year and got an early,
very early, Texas Intruments calculator, so early that the
box labeled it as an "Electronic Slide Rule" and gave this
thing a model number starting with "SR" for Slide Rule.
Apparently this thing is already so rare that a friend was
already trying to sell it on eBay for $600, before finding
out I didn't WANT $600 for it, as I have already included,
along with other examples, such things in my MIT speeches,
and other similar events.
I still have my 8" floppies, punch cards, 9-track reader--
NOT an error, computer tape, not the 8-track mentioned for
the above example, tho I have those, too, quadraphonic!
> Does this mean we shouldn't do everything we can to
> digitize and migrate digital texts into newer and more
> useful forms? No! The power of the computer to make
> searching easier and works accessible virtually anywhere
> in the world is too great a blessing to ignore.
Pausing here, before the unspoken "Caveat Emptor! etc,"
I simply agree. . .and no amount of muddying the waters
after the fact can change what was just said.
eBooks are too great a blessing to ignore!
Paraphrasing Rev. Bob here. . .as the inventor of eBooks
it would be unseemly for me to say. . . .
> But let's not go the way of the latest Latin proverb I've
> seen.... Quod non est in Googlis non est in mundo! In
> the words of my own fractured quotation: "Sennacherib, my
> son, believe not all inscribed on clay tablets!" and one
> set four millennia later: "Wesley, my son, don't trust
> everything you get on that laptop!"
Personally, just "Don't trust everyone" should be enough!
> Rev. Robert E. Smith Concordia Theological Seminary Fort
> Wayne, Indiana "Translatio traditio est" -- Attr. St.
And you, the reader, should look up that St. Jerome quote.
Michael S. Hart