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Yesterday afternoon, I had a couple of minutes to kill, so I pulled one of my old favorite books down off of the shelf: Barbara Ninde Byfield, The Book of Weird, in trade paperback, from 1973.


It came apart in my hands, mostly. The pages are cracking, the binding is shot. Shame. It was a thing of beauty, both the pictures and the prose. I think I can either read it again, maybe one more time period, or I can keep it, but I can't do both.

Tonight, before bed, I glanced over at John Scalzi's blog, and saw that he, too, had permanence vs. impermanence of books on his mind, the last couple of days: a lovely meditation on the pointlessness of trying to "write for the ages," and then a follow-up in which he gently picks a fight with Jonathan Franzen on the "permanence" and "solidity" of paper books vs e-books.

Ars longa, vita brevis, my ass.



Feb. 2nd, 2012 05:07 am (UTC)
Presumably, break the DRM, convert to as easy a format to read as possible, store digital copies on as many media as they can think of, and then run the race of making sure that all of their archives transfer and then translate across to the new standardized formats and media.

It's a race that NASA is losing right now, and that archivists are worried they've already lost for great chunks of data generated.
Feb. 2nd, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
I agree that's a basic start. But you're assuming technology will always be in place-- that we'll always have some tech that can read data. Though its cumbersome, for the vital stuff, we need to have it in a hardcopy format that humans can read, like books. If using a tech to store data, it has to be easily accessible or easy to figure out, like LP records or microfiche. Because, gods forbid, some disaster unfolds that unravels what we've built, we'll lose everything in high tech storage.
Feb. 4th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
Quite. We need to be able to keep our knowledge, both in breadth and in depth, and the depth part does require some well-kept low-tech solutions. Kind of like the seed bank in Norway(?) that hopes to preserve our agricultural abilities, assuming that we hit disaster and need to re-learn how to farm.
Feb. 4th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)