“How important are paper books?” | TeleRead

In his Teleread article (11 October 2012), Dan Eldridge picks up on Associate Professor Justin Hollander’s New York Times op-ed piece protesting Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s  comment before the National Press Club that “over the next few years, [paper] textbooks should be obsolete.”

What makes his comments on comments on a comment bookmark-worthy are the comments they provoked from Gary Frost, Emeritus Conservator at the University of Iowa Libraries and the author of Future of the Book: A Way Forward (Coralville, IA: Iowa Book Works, 2012):

“The current rush of changes in print and ebook uses is dramatic evidence of our close relationship with books. A flood of digital reading devices and hybrid software and hardware designs are emerging as the print book is augmented by screen delivery and associated cloud libraries, ebook collection building, automated index and searching, and screen learning. While all screen book simulations deviate from print conventions the hybrids that emerge reference each other and often resonate with each other.  This rapidly developing book production and consumption landscape is dynamic and unique in media history, or is it?

It’s pretty amazing that little attention is paid to the emerging composite of print and screen delivery of books.  I mean looking directly between them and at an emergent functionality of all books. There you can now perceive the interdependence of print and screen and the likelihood that neither will flourish without the other. . . .  Also involved are other forums, other than the forum of current technologies, their products and marketing. These other disciplines include academic book studies, cognitive science aspects of reading, book sustainability within libraries and many vectors of book arts.”

One might single out the infiltration of the book by “the social web” from the vector of current technologies that Frost insightfully identifies as necessary to explore this moment in the book’s/ebook’s evolution in which those who buy ebooks buy yet more print books.  The ability to annotate and share print books is gradually being replicated, prodded as it were by the phenomenon of the social web.

So here you have it: a comment on comments on comments on comments on a comment.

“Of the making of comments, there is no end.”

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