10.0372 real books

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 29 Oct 1996 20:16:24 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 372.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Jim Campbell <jmc@poe.acc.virginia.edu> (98)
Subject: Re: 10.0369 real books (part 2 of 2)

[2] From: Maarten van der Heijden <mheijden@knoware.nl> (19)
Subject: Re: 10.0369 real books (part 2 of 2)

[3] From: Haradda@aol.com (19)
Subject: Re: 10.0369 real books (part 2 of 2)

[4] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (47)
Subject: books, body and soul

[5] From: Marta Steele <Marta_Steele@Pupress.Princeton.Edu> (37)
Subject: real books

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 18:44:15 -0500
From: Jim Campbell <jmc@poe.acc.virginia.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0369 real books (part 2 of 2)

A couple of general comments:

1. All of this discussion assumes that electronic texts are delivered
in 20 years in much the same way they are delivered now. The technology
has changed dramatically in the last five years and I suspect it will
continue to change. We can't state what the advantages and
disadvantages of electronic vs. paper access in 20 years will be.

2. It also assumes stability in the publishing industry, but there are
very real problems there and the survival of the book may ultimately be
an economic rather than a technological question.

Certainly the book will be with us for a while, I hope a long while,
but I wouldn't take bets outside of 20 years.

Then a few comments from a librarian on Robert Amsler's posting.

How this will affect libraries is an interesting issue. On the one
hand, libraries currently have the paper budget to buy books and
journals for the whole university, so to speak.

Well, my main quarrel with this is the tense. It is affecting
libraries. We have for many years now devoted a portion of our budget
to electronic resources, mostly CD-ROMs, and now are purchasing access
to Internet resources for our University, including access to
electronic journals and books for departments.

Departments may decide this isn't working out too well as they now
have more things to acquire directly and they have to pay to print
them; so they may want some of that budget back--then too,
departments are notoriously bad at keeping their literature
organized, so they may want to pass the printed Web pages off to the
library for cataloguing, storage and access. Some departments might
decide that the library should be the ones to download the materials
directly--i.e., by recommending web sites the way they now recommend
journals. Then the library would be the one to monitor the sites for
new publications.

Again, all this is happening now, though I'm unclear why it's said
departments are now buying more things directly - most of them have
always done some duplicating of essential materials. I suspect few
libraries are going to want to store paper printouts of materials or to
download websites. We'd rather set up a Web page of our own that
connects to key research sites for the disciplines we serve and/or make
links to the sites in our Web based catalogs. And there is more
stability on the Web now as more and more organizations put up
materials, it's the individual sites that have been the big problem.
If there's heavy local use, we'd rather have an electronic copy and put
it up on a server, copyright allowing. That's what we're doing for
reserve materials now. Many journal publishers, when they negotiate
contracts with libraries for electronic journals, now guarantee that
the library owns the years for which it subscribes, so that if the
journal ceases or the library drops its subscription, it can download
those issues or get a tape of them and continue to make them available
locally. A real problem, incidentally, is that many of these contracts
don't allow interlibrary loan, so researchers at smaller institutions
may have trouble getting needed materials without paying the document

The issue of paper vs. electronic storage is also there. So far,
NOBODY has told me they like to read large documents on the Web. This
tends to say that while students may be forced to read things online,
they will want the option to print them out, and may even be willing
to pay for that (if they can afford it). The question of what happens
when professors assign students to do Web-based research for a
project seem to come up. If a whole class full of students needed
access at one time; or toward the end of semester entire sets of
classes were trying to complete reports to turn in by accessing the
Web for their research--the demands on numbers of terminals available
at one time would be quite high. I.e. libraries started with the
terminals being the INDEX, used for a time to get references which
were then tracked down in the real library; then terminals became an
augmentation to the library for newspaper and other short articles;
but now the prospect looms of the Web as the SECOND LIBRARY--one in
which students and faculty will want to download (i.e. borrow) much
larger articles and documents--or, less likely, stay in front of the
terminal for the whole time while they read them; i.e. terminals will
have to be as plentiful as chairs in the library or as visitors to
the library building.

All of this assumes that this research will be done in the library. We
have in fact added a lot more terminals, but our computing center is
also putting ethernet in the dormitories.

Libraries can blunt the cost of having ample printers, administering
the cost of printing, etc. by offering downloading and pushing the
cost of printing off to the student's home computer; OR go into the
printing role more actively by providing bigger and less expensive
per page printing equipment to try and keep printing costs down
(though equipment and operational costs would go up).

Most libraries and computing centers are or soon will be charging for
printing in the same way they now charge for photocopying.

Universities faced with the Web as an essential part of education may
have to resort to university web access facilities--far more
extensive than existing computer labs, probably featuring less
expensive Web computer terminals, intended largely just to provide
access to Web pages, printing, etc. and no "computing" as we now use
the term to refer to word processing, spreadsheets, database access,

Most universities are very reluctant to make that kind of investment in
technology that is so quickly obsolete and are trying to figure out
ways to place the burden on the students.

These times they are a changing...

They have done changed, at least in some places. And as with
so many other things in the 90s, the trend is for them to
change in ways that will be most acceptable to those who can pay.

- Jim Campbell
=09Acting Director, Systems and Networked Information

University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, VA 22903 USA
campbell@virginia.edu * Tel: 804-924-4985 * Fax: 804-924-1431

Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 06:33:21 +0100
From: Maarten van der Heijden <mheijden@knoware.nl>
Subject: Re: 10.0369 real books (part 2 of 2)

I am very glad with this ongoing discussion on the book. Though I am mainly
a reader I would like to react on what Ron wrote.

At 22:02 28-10-96 +0000, you wrote:
> [1] From: Ron Tetreault <tetro@is.dal.ca> (33)
> =20

>Let me be so bold as to propose something I'll call the Tetreault test: I=
>you can print out an e-text without losing something vital, it wasn't wort=
>electrifying in the first place.

This last is a very strong point I believe in the ongoing discussion about
the Book and Etext. I would mak ea slight modification to your statement.=
If you can print out an E-text without losing something vital, the author
didn't realise which capacities this technology offered.=20
This is not true though for Email, which exists by virtue of the speed and
editabillity it offers.

From=20the early years of the use of the book we see that authors are looki=
for new ways to order and make accessible their books, using indexes,
footnotes, tables of contents etc.The choice to publish electronically
obliges us to think about that technology as much as the early makers and
users of books did.

Maarten van der Heijden

Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 00:06:51 -0500
From: Haradda@aol.com
Subject: Re: 10.0369 real books (part 2 of 2)

I am going to put in my own two cents worth on this. I think that everyone
makes too much of a big deal about reading etext on a computer. If you
compose your papers on a computer or edit your books on one you are reading
long etext. If you have a big display and the proper word processor or
browser you can make the characters larger or the text scroll if you want t=
I carry around ebooks on zip disks and read them on my laptop. I have
been reading thru the "classics" for the last few years. Reading whole boo=
rather than the selections that I read in my undergrad days. I have also
been reading the children's books that I missed when I was younger as well =
reading those that I liked with my children. nightly.

I must admit that I do print up some chapters per week when I read with my
children. But still it isn't a big deal. This Christmas I am putting
together an anthology of my favorite poems and short stories that I have
enjoyed and rediscovered. I am printing up 50 copies that I am giving to
friends as well as clients.=20

A far bigger problem is that fewer and fewer people read much of anything
at all. And the level of their reading ability has fallen to quite low
levels. My children's friends come over all the time to get etext books
from my collection. Books that they need to read for school. Their
teachers don't seem to expect much and the kids don't give back very much

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 08:25:30 -0500 (EST)
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: books, body and soul

In Humanist 10.367, Greg Lessard makes the useful distinction between=20
Technology/technology and Book/book, that is, between the conceptual=20
entity and a particular manifestation of it. He says, quite rightly,=20
that it's important to keep these distinct, and notes that I mix them=20
up, sometimes talking about one, sometimes the other. "In short," he=20
concludes, "we may have qualms about a technology, but we shouldn't=20
let this distract us from considering the Technology it exemplifies=20
and asking ourselves what its limits might be." Indeed -- a nice=20
statement of what I think Humanist is for. Then, he goes on to=20
discuss reading, distinguishing "three perspectives on texts:=20
consultative (looking up), discursive (reading sequences of text) and=20
esthetic (textual pleasure)." He finds that although these kinds are=20
useful to distinguish, the categories break down, e.g. when an=20
essentially consultative work (such as Diderot's Encyclop=E9die)=20
is treated as an aesthetic object, or when a discursive text (such as=20
Ovid's Metamorphoses) is consulted. On closer inspection he finds,=20
again quite rightly, that to be more precise about these things, we=20
have to mix up what we have distinguished.

A contradiction? Apparently so, but it is the contradiction inherent=20
in our historical circumstance -- indeed, the philosopher would say,=20
inherent in our contradictory existence (and if this philosopher were=20
given the chance he or she would probably bring out the old=20
body/soul problem and take enormous pleasure in contemplating our=20
eternal return to basics). As computing humanists -- permit me to be=20
quite emphatic here -- our task is to be awake while in the middle of=20
the muddle and attempt as best we can to sort it out.=20

The stubbornness I hang on to, my rock in the storm, is the question=20
of why we should waste our time any longer in imitative modes of=20
thought. The "electronic book" is an "iron horse" we should start=20
thinking of as a "train". Forget the horse! Start asking what the=20
train can do that a horse could not, what the consequences of its use=20
are, and so forth. Then we can ask about all those liberated horses,=20
and perhaps have something to do with keeping the nutters from=20
convincing the Mighty that we should slaughter them all, or some other
such wicked foolishness.

The forces at work are certainly more than we can control, but we're=20
not totally without influence, and even if it is of no avail against=20
the economic typhoon, we will have understood something important=20
about the acculturation of technology -- and have refurbished an old=20
philosophical debate for the nintendo generation?


Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer
King's College London / Strand / London WC2R 2LS
+44 0171 873-2784 / Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 08:52:56 EST
From: Marta Steele <Marta_Steele@Pupress.Princeton.Edu>
Subject: real books


There's a lot more to say than I, or probably anyone else, has time=20
to say on this vastly important subject. I will have more time later=20
(and hope I don't say too much then!) but right now I want to quickly=20
respond to Mr. Lessard's latest posting by saying, yes, well and=20
good, but in 2016 I hope they have figured out a way to make the=20
electronic medium far less ephemeral if it is fated to replace books.=20
I can envision electronic devices that imitate books in every way,=20
sit on our shelves, and besides that contain all the advantages we=20
currently enjoy on the bulkier, far less portable screens. It still=20
seems bizarre to me and far less esthetically pleasing than print on=20
a designed page, which, quite simply, won't flicker or fail. Just=20
yesterday I was reading from I a book I own that dates back to the late=20
1600s, an edition of Lucan's _Pharsalia_. The print on the page is=20
intact and thoroughly legible. As a matter of fact, the book shows=20
hardly a trace of wear. Of course, I haven't written in the margins=20
but they are filled with the marginalia that were current at that=20
time. I also have to add that I don't use the book every day but=20
neither do I need to encase it in glass or otherwise give it special=20

I don't mean to sound self-righteous but I consider that book my most
prized and favorite material possession. I guess these paragraphs
themselves place me in a specific era as a reactionary. So be it. People
may read these in 100 years and laugh.=20

I reiterate, though, people are still very anxious to write books=20
rather than commit their publications to the internet. So my two=20
points are that publication on disk/screen has not yet superseded all the
advantages we derive from books (longevity in addition to the
"sentimental" perks) and the population is far from "sold" on the latter
as a sure replacement.

I'm still fascinated with the ultimate effects electronic publication=20
will have on (I'm admittedly inarticulate so early in my workday) the=20
intellectual directions our culture takes, but there are so many=20
other factors serving as roadblocks these days that perhaps the real=20
question must for its own sake put aside all these variables.=20
How will we evolve intellectually? =20