Can Print and E-Books Coexist? Ceci n’est pas un signet!

grWJH

“So a video journalist goes into a bookstore …”  and finds little to report.  Beset by the BBC’s wallowing in non-events and the trivial, I am probably flailing out unfairly at the PBS’s “dog bites man” story or perhaps indigesting a bit of humbug this Christmas season.   MediaShift . VIDEO: Can Print and E-Books Coexist? | PBS.*

At least one commentator (gfrost; Gary Frost?), however, points out what video journalist Joshua Davis and his interviewees failed to explore:  “[M]issed is an inherent interdependence between print and screen books. An eerie complementary fit of the different affordances means that neither will flourish without the other.” Now there is a premise worth exploring, which Gary Frost does (see previous posting).

And what would Joshua Davis and his interviewees make of David Streitfield’s story in the NY Times that sales of e-reading devices seem to have reached a plateau?  “Even as prices fall, though, the dedicated e-reader is losing steam. The market peaked last year, with 23.2 million devices sold, IHS iSuppli said in a report this month. This year, sales will be 15 million. By 2016, the forecast is for seven million devices — as opposed to 340 million tablets, which allow for e-reading and so much more.”

Streitfield’s story actually begins with “the dog that didn’t bark”:  the prices for ebooks themselves have not fallen, despite the predicted result of the US Justice Department’s case against and settlements with six of the big publishers (five, now that two are merging).    For Frost’s premise that neither form — ebook or print — will flourish without the other, does that raise the question of whether either will decline without the other’s declining?   The rules of logic alone suggest otherwise, but consider Streitfield’s “more counterintuitive possibility … that the 2011 demise of Borders, the second-biggest chain, dealt a surprising blow to the e-book industry. Readers could no longer see what they wanted to go home and order.”

Perhaps the ebook and print are more intertwined than even Frost’s premise implies. Simba’s Jonathan Norris is quoted in Streitfield’s article:  “The print industry has been aiding and assisting the e-book industry since the beginning.”    Of course, someone needs to point this out with a cattle prod to the publishers withholding their ebooks from public and academic libraries.  The site TeachingDegree offers a succinct collection of data (PBS take notes) on the topic in a sort of dialectical digital poster.

Perhaps the whole story is just “human reads book” and is not worth a bookmark, but then where would have been the fun of finding out in punning

Magritte-pipe

with Magritte’s painting that the French for bookmark is either un signet (digital) or un marque-page (print), and in English we can make no distinction?

*In fairness to PBS, readers should take a look at the series “Beyond the Book 2012.”

Still, Frost’s Future of the Book goes far deeper.

(A general indifference?) Towards the Digital Divide

How might we explain the ascent, pervasiveness and popular appeal of digital art?

A few months ago, Greg Smith, a  Toronto-based artist, reviewed Claire Bishop’s “Digital Divide” (Art Forum, September 2012).  The review and Bishop’s article touch on a recurrent theme in Books On Books:  the materiality and immateriality of books.

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2204574815/expanded-artists-books-envisioning-the-future-of-the-book

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2540958720/a-bookmark-for-letters-outside-themselves

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2276808444/ebooks-do-we-really-want-our-literature-to-last-for-ever

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2204732117/bookmarking-a-forthcoming-title

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2213422701/the-bookless-library-and-what-will-become-of-the-paper-book

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2173038714/and-there-you-have-it-the-kindle-of-the-late-eighteenth-century-mike-kelly-amherst-college

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2182994587/this-is-for-you-in-support-of-libraries-books-words-ideas

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2123229496/to-see-a-world-in-a-grain-of-sand-or-tobacco-leaf

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2082258113/post-artifact-books-and-publishing

http://www.scoop.it/t/books-on-books/p/2079452417/the-making-unmaking-and-remaking-of-books-guy-laramee-s-book-art

But the review and Bishop’s article resonate with some more recent and popular seismic tremors in the world of ebooks.  With all but Macmillan caving into the US Justice Department, we are still left wondering where and when the consumer benefits in cheaper ebooks will be handed out.  The prices on e-reading devices have plummeted, but in the world of ebooks, a slight unease about the inevitability of e-readers is creeping in as tablets and mini-tablets seize the imaginations of some with the loudest digital megaphones.  “Are e-reading devices doomed?”  And by extension – given that tablets are far more than ebook devices — “Is the trajectory for ebooks leveling off?”   While the post-Xmas sales analysis will be more assiduously examined for the “evidence” than the equally predictive gizzards of our Xmas fowls,  as Greg Smith paraphrases Julian Oliver, “the New Aesthetician”:   material or immaterial, “we should all just keep focused on making stuff.”

A bookmark for colophons


Scribes Banner

Mooney, Linne, Simon Horobin, and Estelle Stubbs. Late Medieval English Scribes <http://www.medievalscribes
.com>, ISBN 978-0-9557876-6-9, [25 December 2012].

Here is a useful tool for using colophons to identify scribes by the style of their “hands”.

What is “Manuscripts Online”?

MSS Online

Elsewhere I have commented on this JISC-funded project rising like a medieval cathedral from busy hands at the universities of Sheffield, Leicester, Birmingham, Glasgow, York and Queen’s (Belfast) will warm the enlightened taxpayer’s cockles.  It is now coming to a summary conference to be held at the University of Leicester on 11 January 2013.

Everything about this ambitious project to enable full-text searching of literary manuscripts, historical documents and early printed books owned by libraries, archives, universities and publishers and now online is transparent and open to public scrutiny as it happens.

The researchers’ plan is to enable users to generate visualised search results using maps of medieval Britain, add their own annotations to the data for public consumption and contribute to a knowledge base that will surround and suffuse an outstanding body of primary sources:  Manuscripts Online: the resources.

You can follow the Project Plan and meeting minutes, preview site designs and the scholars’ tweets about the work and witness what appears to be a project run “by the book.”