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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:29 pm 
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Dear fellow book lovers. Please look at this. Not my cup of tea.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 1:52 pm 
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They'll regret it when the power fails.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 2:01 pm 
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Whilst I don't think it's a terribly good idea, I'm somewhat surprised that it hasn't happened earlier.

Quote:
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus.


I fundamentally disagree with that. The difference between scrolls and books is primarily structural, and not at all the same as the relationship between books and digital information. I, for one, have difficulty reading long passages of writing on a computer screen, and definitely don't think I could handle a completely digital replacement for my university's library. I'd have constant migraines.

Plus, as Roy mentioned, there are so many more things that could go wrong with an only-digital system. I think that there probably is a place for digital libraries, but in addition to book libraries, not replacing them. At least not at the moment...


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 3:01 pm 
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Matthew, I agree with you fully. Any long text that I must read and not merely skim gets printed out. And Roy, your reason was the first thing that came to my mind years ago. As SF readers we must all keep A Canticle for Leibowitz in mind. A great book with a warning that remains timely.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 6:32 pm 
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Vernor Vinge's novel Rainbows End, includes a subplot where a university actually shreds books to feed into scanning machines that 'digitise' the library's entire stock.
:roll:

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:11 am 
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Thanks Tony, I did not know that. I was not planning on reading the book, but perhaps I will now. Can you tell me about Vinge's take on the shredding?
I have read various things on shredding and subsequent scanning into computer systems. My preference is to scan and preserve the paper copy. I am told that this is difficult for some kinds of printed matter, especially old manuscripts. I don't know if this is now true, if it's a surmountable difficulty in some or all cases, or if it's largely propaganda in support of digitalisation. I strongly suspect--and in one case know-- that in the case I'm most familiar with, state-financed university libraries, the schools and/or their supporting governments do not want to invest in new storage space for books right now, let alone when the digital technology is fully developed.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:10 am 
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I don't see how this relates to the barbarization of culture - if you read a book, does the way you read it really matter?

The problem with that guy's new library is that only 18 people will be able to read the books at once! I've no doubt at all that ebook readers are the way forward for schools and universities (anyone else remember the scramble to get the best books from the university library after essays were set?) , but it'll only work as long as every pupil is given one of their own.

Matthew S Dent wrote:
I, for one, have difficulty reading long passages of writing on a computer screen, and definitely don't think I could handle a completely digital replacement for my university's library. I'd have constant migraines.


Ebook readers now don't have digital screens, though - they're no more likely to give you a migraine than a paper book. In fact, they're less likely, since you can increase the font size when your eyes start to get tired.

Matthew S Dent wrote:
Plus, as Roy mentioned, there are so many more things that could go wrong with an only-digital system.


There's lots that can go wrong with paper libraries too - fire, floods, leaky roofs, theft, all the rest. If any of those things happen with a digital library you still have the books, you just have to replace the reading devices.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:28 am 
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Rolnikov wrote:
Matthew S Dent wrote:
I, for one, have difficulty reading long passages of writing on a computer screen, and definitely don't think I could handle a completely digital replacement for my university's library. I'd have constant migraines.


Ebook readers now don't have digital screens, though - they're no more likely to give you a migraine than a paper book. In fact, they're less likely, since you can increase the font size when your eyes start to get tired.


I haven't actually tried an Ebook reader myself, so I'm willing to accept the possibility that they're better than digital screens. But I still find it hard to imagine them being as good as/better than the printed page. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong, if I get a chance to use one.

Rolnikov wrote:
Matthew S Dent wrote:
Plus, as Roy mentioned, there are so many more things that could go wrong with an only-digital system.


There's lots that can go wrong with paper libraries too - fire, floods, leaky roofs, theft, all the rest. If any of those things happen with a digital library you still have the books, you just have to replace the reading devices.


That's true enough. It seems like it'd be greater cost to replace the readers- though admittedly that would depend on the quantity.

Maybe I'm just a Luddite, but it seems ill-advised to completely replace the status quo (books) with what is for all intents and purposes a very new technology (digital books). I could understand the addition of a digital library to the printed library, but it seems naive to completely get rid of the printed books.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:48 pm 
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George Berger wrote:
Can you tell me about Vinge's take on the shredding?


I can't recall if there was any noticeable authorial tone (for or against) on that particular subject... but, it was hi-tech SF, so involved a weird (and hard-to-describe) mecha combo of woodchipper, laser-eyes and AI-reader.

Rolnikov wrote:
..if you read a book, does the way you read it really matter?


I think the key difference here is 'book' and 'text'...
Obviously, there's much to said for printed books as quite handsome objects with a particular aesthetic and sensory appeal (smell fresh inks or aged paper!), whereas gadgets like e-book readers are rather sterile - and just 'tools' - in comparison.

I always prefer books for stories, and just cannot read fiction (for pleasure, anyway) on any sort of screen. Editing fiction texts for publication is a different matter, but that's work - and there's a big difference, as it's using a different part of the brain.

Seems to me it will take a generation or two for e-text readers to become the norm in education, and certainly longer for consumers to adopt the habit of using screens instead of turning pages.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:35 pm 
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Thanks Tony, I won't read Vinge, having read about similar gadgets elsewhere. I agree with your other remarks as well. I'm worried about the fate of the paper books if the technotoys win out. I like this thread, since it is forcing me to think about these issues far more intensely than I did before yesterday.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:06 pm 
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Tony wrote:
I think the key difference here is 'book' and 'text'...
Obviously, there's much to said for printed books as quite handsome objects with a particular aesthetic and sensory appeal (smell fresh inks or aged paper!), whereas gadgets like e-book readers are rather sterile - and just 'tools' - in comparison.


For me any lingering affection for the smell of inks or paper is hugely outweighed by the huge inconveniences of paper books! I'd argue that reading books electronically actually leads to a purer communion between reader and text, because so many unnecessary distractions are eliminated. Does peering into the spine of a book to read the words trapped there really enhance anyone's enjoyment or appreciation of a novel?

When I read a book now it's just me and the words.

Tony wrote:
Seems to me it will take a generation or two for e-text readers to become the norm in education, and certainly longer for consumers to adopt the habit of using screens instead of turning pages.


Different chunks of reading are breaking away from paper at different speeds - I imagine most of us already read more personal correspondence, newspaper articles and reference material onscreen than we do on printed paper, and have done for quite a long time.

Longform text is really the only thing still hanging in there on paper, and I can't see it lasting very much longer, now that ebook readers have evolved to the point where using them is so much more pleasant and convenient than reading paper books.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:47 pm 
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Thanks to Rolnikov I have decided to keep an open mind. Several months ago I saw a woman looking at an e-reader. It looked fine. Perhaps my affection for paper is transient. But still, my Leibowitzian fears remain.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:55 pm 
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I think that some of the attachment to printed books is sentemental. Certainly to me, there seems something far more romanticised about reading a printed page than reading something on an Ebook.

My own reluctance towards ebook readers stems largely from my experience of reading on a digital screen, and my uncertainty as to whether they have managed to solve those problems.

Of course, if anyone fancies buying me a Sony Reader, or an Amazon Kindle, so I can find out... ;) :P


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:25 pm 
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my immediate thought when i first saw e-readers was - nay not for me, i'll get a head ache etc. But thinking about it more they would be great for holidays etc and are something i might have a look at.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:41 pm 
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Ah George, wait till you have the new IPhone and can use it as an an ebook. You'll be throwing out your own library soon.


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