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Re: Readin', wRitin', and Radio (yak)

In a message dated 97-05-20 11:54:08 EDT, artifex@xxxxxxxxxxxx (Nicholas
Yeager) writes:
<< My own reaction to the program, having used text-crunching software in my
 >research since the mid-1980s, concerns those who see substituting digitized
 >texts for not just the works that are self-destructing, but for books in
 >general. >>

I don't know if the digital intent is so much one of substitution as it is
for preservation.  So much material that is important to archive may not
survive the material assault it receives from envrionmental damage whether
it's because of a poor choice of materials or from other influences,
including book burning.  Archiving works now in a digital format is one way
of assuring the continuance of our accumulated knowledge and experience some
time into the future.

Technology will certainly be advancing at a rapid rate, however digital
information is still going to be an easy way to move information from one
digital format to another whether it's magnetic, optical or otherwise.  It
seems to me that this is an optimum way to efficiently store what is no
longer wanted or deemed necessary, but may never be completely obsolete.  I
doubt if those of us who are interested in preserving the integrity of the
written word can possibly wield enough influence to change the minds of those
who see the bottom line as a prime motivation to justify what they are doing.
 The alternative is something, at least.

The most imminent threat to the continuation of a kind of written culture
that we enjoy is the vanishing independence of conscientious publishers.
 Absorbtion into huge financial conglomerates has drastically changed the
nature of publishing now, and only material that can be fiscally justified
seems to dominate this field right at the moment.  That leaves us with a
dilemma.  Publish or perish is not only the rallying cry of academics, but
others as well whose works may have substance but not......well, the pizazz
that sells, I guess.

>If you claim books can be replaced by electronic or digitized texts,
>        how many serious works of scholarship/research great literature or
>        historical importance  have you EVER read entirely from a terminal?

For some, perhaps the most viable alternative for the time being is
electronic publishing.  You have no argument about the discomfort of reading
text from a terminal and this is certainly no substitute for replacing books.
 Reading a microfich isn't any fun either.  However, it may be simply a
matter of survival to explore the potential of electronic publishing and find
ways to use this medium successfully.

For some writers of esoteric material there may no longer be a venue for
publishing their works so other viable options should be openly explored, not
denied.  Let's keep one thing in mind here, the most significant thing about
any book is content, not the covers or the paper it's printed on.  That has
to do with the aesthetic experience and it's no small matter, but not the
most important criteria, if we are concerned about the continuance of
literature or research.  If the concern is about the continuance of the book
arts, well it seems that there is no shortage of interest these days to do
just that.

We are perhaps talking about two different subjects here, one concerns the
wealth of knowlege and the ability to continue to freely convey and
distribute this material.  The other is about the art of making books or the
appreciation of fine bindery which is a different matter altogether.  With an
increasing awareness of the book arts I wonder if the health of this
particular format might not be in better shape today than at mid century.  I
could be wrong about this, I don't know.

PS: If this post is too long for the normal things that are sent up here, I
wouldn't mind if you let me know, I understand.  On another list we usually
use the bracketed (YAK) indicator in the subject heading to alert those not
interested in extended posts, so they may delete the material rather than
ploughing though what is not of interest.

Chris Ray


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