Monday, September 7, 2009

desirable, necessary structural constraints...

If this hadn’t been a lighter birthday offering, I would have opined that the idea of the digital storehouse - let’s say Google’s, since it’s what’s in the news - has a lot going for it but also some peculiar shortcomings. The book-as-object has a weight and occupies a space; it demands to be exchanged for money, instead of inviting to be copied for free; it is hard to create, and almost as hard to destroy. The book-as-information is none of those things, and offers the tantalising prospect of cheap knowledge, everywhere, for everybody.

I’m as excited as the next fellow about the prospect of orphan works and out of print titles suddenly becoming available, I think it’s genuine progress. But the real finds in four years of attendance at the DCM storehouse have been books I wasn’t looking for, and I was able to stumble upon them because of their physically being there, occupying a finite space.

Wandering through a large book fair is not the same thing as entering keyword searches in a universal of near-universal digital repository. I hope we don’t forget the art of browsing.

Back to the original post.

No comments: