The Bookless Future

The Bookless Future: What the Internet is Doing to Scholarship, David A. Bell

Apparently the Internet may succeed where all the book burnings through the centuries did not:

http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/bannedbooksweek/bookburning/bookburning.cfm

I know that someday…someday…probably…all books will be read on the Internet or on some sort of digital-enabling device (or whatever it will be called). Just as I said back in 1995 that everyone will be buying through e-commerce on the Internet someday (okay I tend to exaggerate sometimes, and people just looked at me strangely)…I know that this will come to pass. I have mixed feelings about reading books on the Web.

As Bell said in his article there are good things about reading on the Web: you can follow links to other sources or to quotes or to verification of one sort of another; you can link to video and audio files and have a truly multimedia book! Cool! But there are also foreseeable problems: computer is down or Internet is down and you have to finish that book by tomorrow for class! What do you do? Hyperlinks that the book (or article or whatever it is you are reading) has referenced are no longer valid and you get a 404–how many times has this happened to me, I can’t tell you!

Still, I do love the fact that so much information is being digitized and accessible through the Web:

  1. genealogy records through Ancestry.com (paying site)
  2. old newspapers through newspaperarchive.com  (paying site)
  3. books in the public domain through gutenberg.org
  4. books through google books
  5. and any multitudinous number of archives,libraries, universities, historical societies, and government agencies to name a few organizations that are now digitizing records for access through the Web

It is the future, just as I said that e-commerce was the future. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to access all of the information that I can on the Web, and I access it every day. I love digitization! But for someone who grew up with books on every floor in the house and who was a voracious reader, I have been a book lover since the time I learned to read and I will always love my books. I will read books on the Web if I have to, but given the choice I will find a hard copy. Digitized books is more for the future generations who will not have the chance to grow to love books because they will grow up reading on their computer (or whatever device has been developed by that time). 

Bell seemed to see the same dilemna when he wrote:

I start reading, but while the book is well written and informative, I find it remarkably hard to concentrate. I scroll back and forth, search for keywords, and interrupt myself even more often than usual to refill my coffee cup, check my e-mail, check the news, re-arrange files in my desk drawer. Eventually I get through the book, and am glad to have done so. But a week later I find it remarkably hard to remember what I have read. I start reading, but while the book is well written and informative, I find it remarkably hard to concentrate. I scroll back and forth, search for keywords, and interrupt myself even more often than usual to refill my coffee cup, check my e-mail, check the news, re-arrange files in my desk drawer. Eventually I get through the book, and am glad to have done so. But a week later I find it remarkably hard to remember what I have read.

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