The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future

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9781586489021: The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future

The era of the printed book is at a crossroad. E-readers are flooding the market, books are available to read on cell phones, and companies such as Google, Amazon, and Apple are competing to command near monopolistic positions as sellers and dispensers of digital information. Already, more books have been scanned and digitized than were housed in the great library in Alexandria. Is the printed book resilient enough to survive the digital revolution, or will it become obsolete? In this lasting collection of essays, Robert Darnton—an intellectual pioneer in the field of this history of the book—lends unique authority to the life, role, and legacy of the book in society.

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About the Author:

A former professor of European history at Princeton University, Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the Harvard University Library. The founder of the Guttenberg-e program, he is the author of many books. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Dennis Drabelle drabelled@washpost.com This book distills Robert Darnton's years of musing -- as a historian, university professor and librarian -- on the history and future of the book, whether printed or electronic. Though he is an unabashed partisan of books as they have existed since the codex replaced the scroll about 1,700 years ago, Darnton sees at least one ideal use for electronic publishing: to make widely available the results of scholarly research, with hyperlinks to the research itself where possible. "Any historian who has done long stints of research," Darnton writes, "knows the frustration over his inability to communicate the fathomlessness of the archives and the bottomlessness of the past." Cyberspace is the perfect solution, a medium in which such complexities can be not only suggested but also explored via links for the curious. At the end of this chapter ("E-Books and Old Books"), the director of the Harvard University Library makes clear how he thinks e-books will be classed: "as a supplement to, not a substitute for, Gutenberg's great machine." Darnton is alarmed about another aspect of publishing: the loss of old newspapers in their physical form, a state of affairs that Nicholson Baker has also lamented. Both writers are incensed by the way in which some libraries toss out archived newspapers (and many other items) without alerting the public. Darnton would change this, requiring "libraries that receive public money" to publish lists of their prospective throwaways, and he urges "libraries around the country [to] begin to save the country's current newspaper output in bound form."
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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