Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Plethora of Bookish Stuff

Why shouldn't you all benefit from the rummaging through the landfill of the Web I've been doing today?

Two pieces from MSNBC's Practical Futurist columnist, Michael Rogers. The first, published June 21/05 is titled "Turning books into bits: Libraries face the digital future." Not a lot of new ideas in this but it was notable (to us at OCLC) because OCLC and Open WorldCat were mentioned, and Cathy De Rosa quoted.

"We are going to be able to create a great deal of knowledge,” says Cathy De Rosa, vice president of library services for OCLC. “There are millions of items that exist only one place in the world—the ability to mobilize those resources is extraordinary, so your research can include the book, the map, the sound recording, the journal article, even the original manuscript. The problem is: how do we put it together?"

The second piece, "Waiting for the iPod of digital books" dated June 28/05 is a follow-up to the first article. Rogers begins with this:

Of all the Practical Futurist columns I’ve written over the last four years, last week’s piece on “Turning Books into Bits” attracted the very least amount of reader feedback. I’m not sure whether that’s because people aren’t that interested in libraries, or if the enormous transition described in the piece just didn’t provoke many reactions.
Hmmm, neither option is terribly good news for libraries, is it?

Rogers closes this article by suggesting "that electronics will ultimately break the concept of the book down into much smaller units."

Well, yes, it will, and so we pointed out in the final chapter of the Environmental Scan..."The second pattern to emerge from the twilight is the rapid and widespread reduction of content and institutions to much smaller units of use and interaction than in the past." Disaggregation.

In a July 10/05 article published in Global Politician, Sam Vaknin (who, according to the bio blurb, until recently served as Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia...I find this very quirky) writes about "The Future of the Book".

E-books are only the latest application of age-old principles to new "content-containers". Every such transmutation yields a surge in content creation and dissemination. The incunabula--the first printed books--made knowledge accessible (sometimes in the vernacular) to scholars and laymen alike and liberated books from the tyranny of monastic scriptoria and "libraries". E-books are promising to do the same.

Vaknin references an essay by publisher Joeseph Esposito that was published in the March 2003 issue of firstmonday. The Esposito essay is called "The processed book."

The "processed book" is all about content, not technology, and contrasts with the "primal book"; the latter is the book we all know and revere: written by a single author and viewed as the embodiment of the thought of a single individual. The processed book, on the other hand, is what happens to the book when it is put into a computerized, networked environment.

And in "Future Creep: 500 Books in your Gadget Bag" the Gizmodo columnist Sanford May looked (July 28/04) at "what it will take for eBooks to finally compete with dead tree publishing." He concludes by saying, "like iPod, none of the eBook enhancements need be especially novel in concept; true genius will lie in the packaging: content, convenience, and, of course, cool factor. Without a truly compelling alternative to print, the eBook revolution will stall at its own forward-thinking rhetoric."

(The latent grammarian in me has to wonder at the construction of the Esposito and May quotes....very complicated. A semi-colon followed by a colon? The latter construction is correct and I think the former is not)

And then Cory Doctorow at boingboing the next day (July 29/04) ripped May's column apart in "Ebook column gets it all wrong."
Really, it's as though he sat down and called an ebook startup's PR guy, then reasoned out all of his a priori, without reference to any of the activity in the field. I believe fiercely and passionately in ebooks...but articles like this do nothing to advance the discussion.

Two more Sam Vaknin pieces from Global Politician venture further afield from just ebooks, but they are relevant to the bookish topic. "Digital Object Indentifiers and the Future of Online Content" - Part 1 and Part 2 will resonate with librarians.

The Internet is too rich. Even powerful and sophisticated search engines, such as Google, return a lot of trash, dead ends and Error 404's in response to the most well-defined the legendary blod, the Internet is clearly out of classificatory control.

And that's it for today. Tomorrow, part 3 of my environmental scanning "series."

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