Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: e-books versus d-t-books

Author:Nick Sweeney
Posted:6/3/2000; 1:15:31 PM
Topic:e-books versus d-t-books
Msg #:17554 (In response to 17546)
Prev/Next:17553 / 17555

I think there's a lot of life in the dead-tree medium yet. This is mainly because most of my "proper" work is with dead-tree text products from the 18th-c, which will probably cost less to preserve and maintain than digital texts, given that the dead-tree file format is stubbornly resistant to bitrot (if not fire, damp or mildew).

That's not to say that I'm not a fan of Project Gutenberg, or of Octavo's stunning PDF digitisations: having a searchable text makes the job of students and editors so much easier. And I think we're moving into a period in which "digitisation" will go alongside "internationalisation" and "serialisation" in the list of rights to be negotiated.

But it will take us a few iterations (human and technological) to get screen fonts that are as easy on the eye as ones in print (fonts are mathematical, but not digital, by nature), and to work out the look and feel of an electronic reader. We're hitting the same cultural paradigm shift as the move from the scroll to the codex back in the early centuries AD. I also get the feeling that the raw technology of e-texts may smack of the shift to paperbacks and cheap acid-bleached paper in the mid-20th-c, which liberated readers, but was awful for archivists.

But from studying in one of the world's great libraries, I understand just why humans are attached to books. And how (like the switch from handwriting to keyboard input) it's not a simple transition to digital writing.

Anyway, I'm still waiting for an e-book I can read in the bath.

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