"The Electronic Book Burning" in Evergreen

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
Here's an excellent summary of what's happening to books and bookstores. I pretty much agree with every word. One thing Kaufman doesn't mention is that ever-evolving software and hardware will leave millions of ebooks unreadable. Not all authors and titles will be migrated forward. The key thing about paper books is that the printed text will never change on you, and there will always be a few surviving copies of any book (excepting lost ancient manuscripts, etc.) Ebooks are not real to me; they're Internet stuff. I have zero desire for a Kindle. At best, an electronic text is a convenient tool. You can search it, transport it, copy it it easily and cheaply. But it's not a dependable text. Link:

http://www.evergreenreview.com/120/electronic-book-burning.html
 
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pigmantoo

I disagree. Handwritten manuscripts gave way to Gutenberg and his printing press. Gutenberg will give was to the digital age, the Kindle and others. This is a necessary evolution. Eventually these digital copies will be able to uploaded directly into your brain. Think of it, every human on the planet will have every book ever written uploaded into their brain (maybe in 10,000 years). Digital books are cost effective, giving more people a chance to be exposed to more and more books, just like Gutenberg was able to publish more books to more people in a cost effective manner.

It is the future, embrace it!
 

mjp

Founding member
One thing Kaufman doesn't mention is that ever-evolving software and hardware will leave millions of ebooks unreadable.
That's right. All of the data we have in "permanent" storage right now will eventually be obsolete and unusable. And in computer terms, "eventually" means in 10-20 years. If it isn't made obsolete by storage and retrieval techniques, it will be lost to storage media failure or attrition (meaning the existing data will not be moved to a future storage media).

The internet is not a permanent repository. It's really a house of cards.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
even facebook, who is always under fire for archiving things that people didn't realize were being archived (namely, deleted messages and photos), admitted that they're excising billions of photos in order to streamline how long it takes to query their database.

i don't agree with kaufman, though. i think he's pretty histrionic in his fear that print books will cease to exist (they're jews in hitler's germany?! come on...).
 
Traveling recently and saw many in various airports and planes with Kindles. When I'm in public places and see someone reading I've this nosy habit of checking out what they're reading - can't do that with those plastic boxes. No character to 'em, no style. I personally like my fireplace to be real, smell the smoke burning. But, pigmantoo is probably right - William Gibson's cyberpunk shit will eventually be reality and we'll simply jack in to our skulls all our entertainment needs. A world without bookstores? Hopefully I'll be dead by then.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
and a $5.99 mass market paperback detective thriller bought at hudson news with a bag of gummi bears has "style?" just being a book doesn't give it exalted status above electronic media. i wasn't aware that reading something on an electronic machine was fake, as opposed to the reality of something printed by a machine using machine-made ink on paper that was made by machines in a giant mill and then bound by a giant machine.
 

justine

stop the penistry
That's right. All of the data we have in "permanent" storage right now will eventually be obsolete and unusable. And in computer terms, "eventually" means in 10-20 years. If it isn't made obsolete by storage and retrieval techniques, it will be lost to storage media failure or attrition (meaning the existing data will not be moved to a future storage media).

The internet is not a permanent repository. It's really a house of cards.

but printed matter is not a permanent storage either. nothing is, at this point. isn't there a story about the great library of alexandria back in whenever it was (sorry, i'm not good with details!) that was completely burned down during some war? and a whole bunch of really important texts were forever lost? the thing is, not everything is ~worth~ archiving... in fact, i would bet that 99% of stuff online AND in print isn't worth archiving for future generations. humans are hoarders, we're constantly trying to hang on to stuff, to preserve it, to dig it up and save it.

i mean, if you walk into a book store and take a look at the shelves, how much of that stuff do you ~really~ think is so incredibly important that it's too good to be read electronically? why should people not have a choice about how they process data? book lovers will continue to buy books; people who don't give a fuck about print will buy e-books. i do a lot of my reading while not at home (probably most of it, actually), and i can tell you that lugging around a big heavy hardcover is a pain in the ass - especially if you're like me and prefer to have a couple of books in case your mood changes, or you're about to finish one book and need another to start - and let me tell you that it really fucks your shoulders up. what about people who don't have access to book stores or libraries, or space to store books, or people who travel/move around a lot?

i guess my point is this: there will always be people who care about books and will continue to publish them. but if other people DON'T care, i don't think they should be forced to. fuck it, i think if people are reading at all we should be encouraging it, whatever medium is utilised.

personally, i will always want to own my favourite books and keep them, and i don't intend to buy any kind of e-reader till they're a lot more fine-tuned (and cheaper!), but you have to embrace new things, to certain extent, in order to have any kind of control over them (keep your friends close and your enemies closer!).
 
and a $5.99 mass market paperback detective thriller bought at hudson news with a bag of gummi bears has "style?"

Hell yes! I have to shower, shave, and lace up my shoes to go to Hudson. And while I'm there chewing on my gummi bears I may discover the next best thing. :) It's walking those book aisles that brings comfort - whether library or bookstore and it can't be replaced by point-click-download. Take this from someone who, sadly, discovered Buk via the electronic media.
 

mjp

Founding member
I'm not anti book whatever the medium. I don't like to read books on a computer screen, but I also don't like to sit in a chair in front of a computer and watch a movie, so I'm a bit of a throwback.

The bit about electronic data being fragile is just a general worry. A book can last hundreds of years, but no computer data will last more than a couple decades. That's just the nature of technology. True, it'll be no great loss if 99% of current books are lost forever, but that's always been true.

The problem is it will be harder to re-discover something electronic than it is to re-discover something in print. If Ask the Dust was a current book and most of the copies were electronic, the chances of someone coming along and championing it the way Bukowski did are slim.

It's worse for images. Old photographs can last a long time, but the pictures on your hard drive will not exist - in all likelihood - in 20 years.

Civilization is just becoming more ephemeral in general, and that's too bad. But then I have my doubts about us as a civilization being around in 100 years, so maybe it's a moot point.
 

cirerita

Founding member
I completely agree with the electronic data as being ephemeral in nature.

My thesis has a 30 page long bibliography, and all the entries refer to paper books. I deliberately avoided using websites or ebooks as references if I could find the same information in a book. Luckily, I would say that 99% of the info I needed was available in books or manuscripts so there was no need to list any online reference.

The reason is pretty simple: when I first started to research into Bukowski back in 2001, I bookmarked some 50-75 websites in my old laptop. Last year I had to take a look at some stuff in that laptop, and -just for kicks- I tried to visit those 50-75 websites. I think only 5-10 of them were actually working. The remaning sites were dead, and I was not redirected to a new version of those sites, if any.

If some bored student or prof is going to take a look at my thesis in, say, 10-15 years time, all the entries in the bibliography will be useful... as long as they can find those books in a library or somewhere. If I had used online references only, they would be royally, totally, and awesomely fucked!
 

mjp

Founding member
Web sites are about the worst repository imaginable.

Of course I say that here on a web site that is largely a repository. I have all the data here and I could get it back up in a day or two if something happened (domain loss, server loss). But most site that disappear just disappear and that's the end of the story. The previous location of the bukowski.net database and manuscripts has a link to this site, but that's pretty rare.
 
Seems like he gets a little carried away with his analogies. I don't think it's a zero-sum game - there's an appropriate place for each medium.

For example, I think the Evergreen Review still publishes a paper version...but in all likelihood, I would have never read that article if it didn't exist in an electronic version as well.
 

cirerita

Founding member
The previous location of the bukowski.net database and manuscripts has a link to this site, but that's pretty rare.

That's because there was an effort on your part. Most people become desinterested in time (especially if they have to pay to maintain a site), and those web sites simply die a sudden death.

What's redirecting, again? :D
 

mjp

Founding member
Well a redirect has to exist on the server, so if you abandon or lose a hosting account, a redirect isn't usually possible. The Google listing can also be hurt by a programmatic or 301 (server) redirect. So a lot of people don't want to use them on sites they care about. Sometimes the domain registrar offers a "pointer" service (and there is also DNS forwarding - confused yet?), but in a lot of cases people have lost the domain, so those are not an answer.

In the early days of the web they called this kind of thing link rot, and there was a lot of effort put into avoiding it. But the web is too huge to even begin to address it at this point. And honestly, most sites that die should die.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
I work with databases. Old data sudden becomes corrupted, for no good reason. Or suddenly, old programs become inaccessible. They won't run on new machines, new networks. While most data (and most books) may not be worth preserving long term, you don't get to pick and choose what goes bad. It just goes -- good, bad, whatever. Paper is far more permanent than electronic media, even "bad" acidic wood pulp paper. I can still read old pulp paper books that are 100 years old, but some of my 1980-85 data at work is now garbage.

The move to electronic books will happen. A few diehards like me will still choose paper over ebooks, and small presses will still publish, but the masses are shifting to ebooks. I can see the convenience. But something is lost when you leave the physical artifact behind. It's a sort of evidence. Physical books and manuscripts can tell you things that are lost when it's an electronic text (while electronic text can reveal hidden changes by the author).

As for downloading books directly into your brain. I don't trust the world enough to give them access to my mind. And there's something that happens when you read that is more than just obtaining the information. It's a thought process. You lose that in a download. The "direct download" is not 10,000 year in the future. It's right around the corner.


ps... my wife, who works at a brick and mortar bookshop, found the Evergreen article (on-line, of course) and reminds me that thanks to email, collections of authors' letters are becoming a thing of the past. Email isn't saved like paper letters are. Archiving takes work, and people routinely delete emails to "save space." Sure, there will be collections of author emails, but with gapping holes thanks to changes in email provider and storage limits. And you won't see the scratch outs or doodles.

With ebooks, you get no signed & inscribed copies, no marginalia, no association copies, no handwritten corrections.

Ebooks really make sense for traveling. I'm not totally against them. I just think we lose more than we gain if they largely replace physical books.
 

justine

stop the penistry
i'm goddamned excited about e-books! because hopefully they will make people who publish print media give more of a fuck about how they publish stuff! i can't name names here, because i don't want to offend in case the person some day happens across this post but:
jordan bought me a chapbook on a subject that i am very very interested in. now, while that chapbook is, i guess, a 'valuable' piece of ephemera as part of my collection simply because of the signature on it, the graceless presentation is shocking to me. it should have been something lovingly put together but instead it was a colour-photocopied cover, a photocopied text block stapled into the cover, a terrible and hideous cover design, a shitty choice of font, a total and complete lack of thought put into the formatting of text, absolutely no editing performed (full of typos and bad grammar), just an all round real piece of shit if i'm being honest. all i could think when i received it was 'i could have made this so much more beautiful'.

last night, after i finished typing here, i kept up the rant at jordan: e-books would have made my life so much easier while i was in college, and i really look forward to the day that students can carry all their text books round on a reader. having to carry around a bag full of heavy texts all day long is a pretty shitty thing to put up with for 3 years.
 

mjp

Founding member
Perfect for textbooks, yes. Therein lies the rub. Textbook makers are the most resistant to electronic versions of their books. Why? Oh, maybe it's the "newly revised" $150 edition that thousands of kids are required to buy every year. Just a guess.
 
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pigmantoo

I agree and I would like to find out why the student has to buy the revised edition, when only 1 chapter was revised, for $150, rather than used for $50.00. When my kids were in college I spent a fortune on books many which could not be sold back because of a "new" edition being published. ebooks could prevent part of this rip-off.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
My biggest concern with ebooks is what will happen to the concept of documented "truth" in historical records when any text can be invisibly tweaked at any time via long distance? A printed text, right or wrong, will not change on you, but electronic texts are fluid, especially in the way they are being distributed and managed. There are already high profile cases of purchased books being yanked back by Amazon and disappearing from Kindles after they were paid for and downloaded. So what will keep your average lying politician or control freak mega corporation from revising history, from messing with your "books?" Nothing. Literature, I figure, will survive, but will historical truth?
 

mjp

Founding member
What is historical truth? Seeing how they distort "history" that took place during my lifetime, I find it difficult to believe any historical accounts of anything. Twenty year olds don't even know what Nixon did ("he was a good president, right?"), but they believe in Jesus because, hey, it's in a book. Har har.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
Sure, "truth" is slippery and relative, and everything is full of lies or incomplete or wrong, but when the basic documented record can change on you, across the board, you haven't got a chance. They'll have us all believing anything they want on any given day.

What Holocaust? Blacks always had equal rights in the U.S. 911 was done by ... well, you get the idea.
 
To go sideways and stand on a soapbox. Some E books make it possible (or will be legislated) so blind low vision those witout arms to turn pages can access the material without having to have the material brailled etc. The ebook is more equitable for more people-that in itself is a good thing and reson to champion the process move forward. If you care about the equality for the disabled then access to books and buildings makes accessibility at the time of design critical. A well designed ebook is more equitable for the PRESENT needs of disabled readers students.
 
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pigmantoo

I just like the idea of very low cost and saving trees -- low cost and you don't have to cut down any trees for the paper. ebooks can save the trees and as trees take co2 out of the air and so maybe also help control global warming. Think of text books for $9 each and being able to care 1000 of them with you -- I just love the technology.

Hell yes! I have to shower, shave, and lace up my shoes to go to Hudson. And while I'm there chewing on my gummi bears I may discover the next best thing. :) It's walking those book aisles that brings comfort - whether library or bookstore and it can't be replaced by point-click-download. Take this from someone who, sadly, discovered Buk via the electronic media.
I do have to agree with you stavrogin as I too find confort in walking the aisles of a library or bookstore. Whats even better is down in the basement looking for the special book. Its a nice way to spend a day, but I believe ebooks have their place and are the future. PS I bought The Rising yesterday and have just started reading it -- I like the fish!
 

mjp

Founding member
ebooks can save the trees and as trees take co2 out of the air...
Manufacturing electronic devices does not "take C02 out of the air" - on the contrary, it creates toxic components with very, very long lives. I couldn't kill you with the dioxins that are the byproduct of making paper for one book, but I could (and often want to) kill you with the components in a Kindle (I learned how in prison).

In America, tree farmers are also tree planters and they plant more than they harvest, so, all in all, not a good argument. Where did you go to law school, Grenada?
 
The move to electronic books will happen. A few diehards like me will still choose paper over ebooks, and small presses will still publish, but the masses are shifting to ebooks.

And, like the 12" LP, in 20-odd years, people will suddenly remember how much better real books were. The dog-eared pages will be like the pops and clicks in the vinyl. A bit of a nuisance, but there's so much more warmth to the word (sound) there.

The thing about a significant portion of "light-social" technology (i.e., non-military, etc.) these days is that it fosters the flash in the pan mentality. It isn't built to last, it's built to sell (read: become redundant or worse, useless).

Something that has not only brought knowledge to mankind for thousands of years, but has actually helped language to evolve, the venerable book, will not go gently into the night.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
Something that has not only brought knowledge to mankind for thousands of years, but has actually helped language to evolve, the venerable book, will not go gently into the night.

that's my problem with kauffman's article in the first place. people who argue that ebooks are just going to replace print books are just perpetuating a sky is falling mentality that turns conversations about the advantages and disadvantages of new technology into screaming matches between technologists claiming that the ebook is going to solve global warming and cure cancer, and the printies railing on about how ebooks are like hitler and books are like jews. it makes for good "incendiary tracts," i suppose.
 
Something that has not only brought knowledge to mankind for thousands of years, but has actually helped language to evolve, the venerable book, will not go gently into the night.
And neither have movie houses gone gently that said the TV is a pretty popular machine that does the same thing to a significant degree-The point is the ebook is a new tool that has many options that are really freaking cool-more options than the book-unless you count balancing out your coffee table as a use-then again I suppose a kindle could do that too!
 
Are you kidding me?? I run with my ipod try doing that with a record player strapped to your shoulder.
I'm not sure how the popularity of ipods is relevant to the resurgence of 12" LP use due to its alleged superiority in sound reproduction relative to more portable media.
 
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