Ebooks: do we really want our literature to last for ever?

See on Scoop.itBooks On Books

A book published earlier this year by an Argentine firm raises questions about the desirability of indelible ink and trackable data, writes James Bridle…

The title of Bridle’s item in “The Guardian” — or “The Groaniad” as it is fondly known for its ponchant [sic] for typos — is “Ebooks: do we really want our literature to last forever?”   It’s hard to tell at first whether Bridle has his tongue partly in his cheek.

He introduces his theme with William Gibson’s collaboration with Dennis Ashbaugh — “Agrippa (a book of the dead)” — which is covered in the July 20 post below.   Though he mentions the competition to reverse-engineer the cryptography that encrypted the poem on its floppy disk at the playing of its first reading, he doesn’t mention the site (http://agrippa.english.ucsb.edu/) dedicated to archiving the event of that first reading.

But as Bridle notes, the physical might have now accomplished the disappearing act the digital could not.  He refers us to “El libro que no puede esperar|The Book That Can’t Wait,” which its publisher Eterna Cadencia just released in print with ink that disappears in two months.  Bridle’s contrarian view to the negative press greeting this instance of print-performance-art is “the persistence of books is a myth in any case: … One of the advantages of ebooks might in fact be that they are easier to move on from, to delete, to forget, preventing us from getting bogged down in bad books and past selves, and, as Eterna Cadencia want us to do, move on and discover new things.”

That may be a clever Heraclitean spark — or Zen cone as “The Guardian” might have it — disguising a marketing ploy.   But that very clamor for attention and the clamor of the self-publishing remind us of what is really at stake:  time.

Our ebooks may be “reading us,” but perhaps we are the ephemera in this case.  Long after we have ceased being tracked, some of those ebooks and books — like the illuminated manuscripts this March at the British Library’s exhibition “Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination” — will mark the human effort to prove the myth that our words and images will last.

See on www.guardian.co.uk

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