Bookmarking a Book Burning – I

Julian Baggini (Aeon) has posted a thoughtful piecejulian-baggini-burning-books on the need for an important cultural artifact to evolve — not just in its codex form but in its very essence — the encyclopedia.  One reader/viewer (there’s a video as well) commented:

Which is worse? Burning books because they are now available in an electronic format? Or not having any physical books to burn, unless you steal them from a museum or collector?

Hold that thought (an “argument by false dichotomy”) and go to Baggini’s concluding paragraph:

I can’t help but mourn the passing of my set of Britannicas, but I do not mourn the passing of the institution. Encyclopædias have passed their use-by-date as fitting symbols for the esteem in which we hold culture and learning. The world is changing, and books, magazines and education have to change with it. Nostalgia for obsolete publications serves us only if we use it to remind us of the things we really value, and want to take forward into our own new world.

What if, though, the things we value and want to take forward into our new world are caught up in the “affordances” of such tangible institutions as the encyclopedia.  Maryanne Wolf hits this chord hard in Proust and the Squid when she worries about the effect of the Google universe on the nature of her children’s ability to read:

Reading is a neuronally and intellectually circuitous act, enriched as much by the unpredictable indirections of a reader’s inferences and thoughts as by the direct message from the eye to the text. … Will the constructive component at the heart of reading begin to change and potentially atrophy as we shift to computer-presented text, in which massive amounts of information appear instantaneously? … is there either sufficient time or sufficient motivation to process the information more inferentially, analytically and critically? … Or does the potential added information from hyperlinked text contribute to the development of the child’s thinking? …

I stray with these questions. But indeed we stray often when we read.  Far from being negative, this associative dimension is part of the generative quality at the heart of reading. … Charles Darwin saw in creation a similar principle, … ‘From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.’  So it is with written language.  Biologically and intellectually, reading allows the species to go ‘beyond the information given’ to create endless thoughts most beautiful and wonderful.   We must not lose this essential quality in our present moment of historical transition to new ways of acquiring, processing and comprehending information. (pp. 16-17)

To go back to Baggini’s troubled reader/viewer, we will not burn books because we have them electronically.  As our different types of books evolve, some we will have electronically only and some we will have both in print and electronically.  We already have many digitised rare books and manuscripts in libraries, museums and collectors’ holdings.  Most people’s exposure to those works can only be electronic, and the more this is the case, the less the need to steal them.   But also the greater the need to understand and innovate to address the loss of tactility and the proprioceptive experience of “curling up with a good book.”  In alluding to Jerome Bruner’s collection of essays Beyond the Information Given, Wolf is reminding us (linking us?) to Bruner’s apt observation that Lev Vygotsky, the famous Soviet developmental psychologist, “was fond of an epigram from Bacon, “Nec manus, nisi intellectus, sibi permissus, multum valent” (Neither hand nor intellect left each to itself is worth much)” (247).   Perhaps neither print nor digital left each to itself is sufficient.

Bookmarking The Gutenberg Bible – The Digital in Support of the Print

The beginning of the Gutenberg Bible: Volume 1...

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has updated its site displaying one of the only five copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the US.   There is much to admire here, and much to be curious about.  The illustration of the watermarks that distinguish the Pforzheimer Bible, the map of locations of other copies (complete and incomplete), the page-turning interactivity and the inclusion of a kids section are welcome.

The interactive map showing the spread of printing, however, does not compare well with those at Jeremy Norman’s From Cave Paintings to the Internet Database Maps, and an explanation of how the Center’s Bible was digitized, something on the order of Ann Tomalak’s informative essay at the British Library’s site describing what conservators must do to prepare fragile manuscripts for digitization, would enrich the Ransom Center’s offering.   

Equally the history of Gutenberg the man and his work with Johann Fust could have been more detailed as could the history of printing and its spread.  Jeremy Norman’s site is still hard to rival.  Other related sites worth a bookmark:

Sarah McCarthy’s review of Hendrik Willem van Loon’s Observations on the Mystery of Print and the Work of Johann Gutenberg at the New York City’s Center for Book Arts

Jeremy Norman’s speculation on Gutenberg’s possible contribution to stereotype printing

The British Library’s site where you can compare paper and vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible

The Göttingen Gutenberg Bible site where you can also find reproduced the notarial instrument on the financial dispute between Gutenberg and Fust

The Keio University site that allows you to compare the Keio Gutenberg Bible with that of the University of Cambridge (require Javascript plugin)

And of course the Mainz Gutenberg Bible.

Bookmark for Marginalia and Note-taking

Annotation function in Utopiadocs.
Annotation function in Utopiadocs. Copyright © 2012 Lost Island Labs.
imgres
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Herman Melville
New York, NY; Salem, MA, 1846-1850. ©2012 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Earlier this month, we saw the release of the Open Annotation Community Group’s specification of the Open Annotation Core Data Model, an interoperable framework for creating annotations that can be easily shared between platforms.  The work, directed by Robert Sanderson and Paolo Ciccarese, began in earnest about six months ago, although it was proceeded by longstanding efforts within and between the editors of the Annotation Ontology and the Open Annotation Collaboration.  Under the auspices of the W3C, the efforts merged into the Open Annotation Community Group (OACG).

The OACG model defines an annotation as “a set of connected resources, typically including a body and target, where the body is somehow about the target,” and the full model  “supports additional functionality, enabling semantic annotations, embedding content, selecting segments of resources, choosing the appropriate representation of a resource and providing styling hints for consuming clients.”    Public rollout events are scheduled for 9 April (Stanford University), 6 May (University of Maryland) and 24 June (University of Manchester).

Back in November last year, while the Open Annotation Community Group (OACG) was thrashing through how to handle collections of annotations and other ontological issues, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University held a two-day symposium called “Take Note,”  marking the conclusion of a two-year project on the history and future of note-taking.  The project also resulted in a virtual exhibition of objects and works from the Harvard University Collections with notes ranging from a price list inscribed on a potsherd to a clothes list on papyrus found in an Egyptian garbage dump to Herman Melville’s annotations of his review copy of Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse (see image above).    The exhibition was curated by Greg AfinogenovAnn Blair and Leah Price, and interestingly, the OACG’s Paolo Ciccarese contributed to building the exhibition’s website.

So besides Paolo Ciccarese’s involvement, what’s the connection between these two events?   Perhaps the link is captured in three comments from the participants:

Bill Sherman, historian at the University of York and author of Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, commented to a reporter,  “We’re now in a moment where we’re leaving behind fewer traces of our reading than ever before…. We may have moved to the turning point where…we’ll have to find new ways to leave more behind.” And as Matthew Kirschenbaum has spelt out in Mechanisms, historians will have to learn new ways to decipher what is left behind.

David Weinberger, author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and long-time blogger, tweeted (according to the Harvard Gazette reporter), “”Collaborative notetaking via etherpad or GoogleDocs etc. is often a great way to go. Fascinating to participate in, too,’ during an afternoon presentation that explored digital annotation tools.”  Like Bob Stein, the co-founder of the FutureoftheBook.com, Weinberger is a champion of social reading and collaborative creativity.

Another participant told the Gazette’s reporter, “’I was struck by the request that we send our notes into Radcliffe because my reaction was, “You know, my notes are really none of your business. My notes are my private thoughts, my private collaborations.” Until I am dead, I don’t really need other people looking at them.'”  That last comment is particularly fetching:  one wonders whether William James and Herman Melville had such an eye on posterity as they scribbled their notes now on display across the Web.

As the book evolves and we annotate works in our ereaders (offline or online), how do we ensure that they persist, and whether offline or online, how do we handle how private or public those notes will be?

Earlier this month, Books on Books raised proprietorial questions about annotated ebooks in response to Nicholas Carr’s article “Used e-book, slightly foxed” sparked by the Amazon patent for selling pre-loved ebooks.  On his site, Carr responded with his own questions:

“[W]hat’s the relationship (legal and otherwise) between an e-book and the annotations added to it by its reader? Are the annotations attached to the particular copy of the e-book, and allowed to remain attached to it when it passes to a new reader, or do the annotations exist in a separate sphere — say, in a personal online database that is the property of the individual reader? … what right does the copyright holder (in particular, the author) hold over the way an e-book is presented? If annotations, or other metadata, in effect become part of the text, permanently or even temporarily, then does that represent a modification of the work that requires the consent of the author? You can’t publish an annotated print edition of a book under copyright without the copyright holder’s permission. Do different rules apply to an e-book?” (Carr’s questions elicited an interesting comment at Futureofthebook.com:  “perhaps the interdependence of print and screen books is inevitable….”)

In some respects, by digitizing and reproducing others’ property (appropriately acquired through bequests, gifts and so on), the Harvard University Collections’ virtual exhibition illustrates Carr’s questions and those of the symposia participants — even the comment from Future of the Book — in a beautifully “tangible” way.  Think upon it.

 

(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.”

Bookmark for your browser or your ereader? | Updating the debate — the cloud gathers

The original posting (20120815) begins beneath the image.  The updates are flagged below.

 

 

Somewhat similar to the discussion kicked off by Jason Pontin in Technology Review, this collection of viewpoints pulled together by Anna Lewis of ValoBox for The Bookseller‘s digital blog FutureBook puts the case for HTML5 over the app/device.

“. . . HTML5 has laid down a new marker in browser standards. Not only does it enable offline capability through caching of content, it also lets you create websites that feel like native apps. The browser is certainly becoming a very different beast. So, does this mean publishers should rethink their approach to the browser, and see it as a way to deliver content, not just discover it?”

How the answers to this question play out affects the evolution of the book.   Bookmark the concept if not this web page.

Other books in browsers covered include 24symbols, Padify and the Internet Archive.  Follow these up on Lewis’s FutureBook posting.  Offline, commentators have suggested Amazon’s Cloud Reader and Firefox’s EPUB Reader as well.   

Also a three-part series of postings by Bill McCoy, Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has begun at Tools of Change today (20120816).  The first in the series articulates a key point about the book as content,

“. . . over time there will continue to be an increasing ability to conveniently publish directly to the cloud, as well as increasing acceptance by end users of cloud-based consumption. Perhaps someday the idea of a “file” will even become obsolete. But, at a minimum for many years to come – and possibly forever – it seems obvious that there will continue to be a significant role for reified content objects [italics added], particularly portable documents.”

Books On Books will add links to the second and third of McCoy’s postings by as they occur.  The concept of the book as a reified content object (techy as the phrase may be) has its bibliographic and critical forerunners (in the work of McKerrow, Benjamin, Barthes, Ong and others) and its contemporaries (in the work of Illich, Hayles, Michael Joyce and others).

On its surface, the debate in which HTML5, EPUB 3, iOS apps, the ebook, the cloud are swimming seems to be a competition of technical approaches and tools.  Beneath its surface, however, stirs something vital to the future of the book.

Updated bookmark begins here (20120817) . . .

Before Bill McCoy’s next posting (see above for the first), Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World (DBW) usefully flagged a timely collection of postings supporting “the cloud trumps the future” perspective on ebooks:  Hachette’s return on its investment in the cloud, the State Department backing off its Kindle deal in order to research other options (cloud-based being the implication), the major textbook publishers’ adaptation to Virtual Learning Systems and MOOCs (massive open online courses), etc.

The “cloud” view, however, recalls an apt caution Michael Joyce made in his Adam Helms lecture in Stockholm in 2001:

    Digital culture reels and swaggers like a drunken plowman who dreams of taking flight, relieved of mortal weight and presence. . . . an old dream, perhaps the oldest of human culture . . . . Much is made of how the digital escapes fixedness, . . . from electrons hurtling along copper corridors, upward to switched registers of transient values, and ultimately to brilliant phosphor letterforms which disappear like fireflies in a billion recurring twilights of a nanosecond’s duration.

    However we situate ourselves in place and time alike.  Cyberspace is not exempt from the mortal and moral geometry wherein we place our hope and find out future.

This from one of the pioneers of the ebook.  What is ironic here and now is that Joyce made these comments while comparing ebooks to print books, yet today they are equally applicable when comparing ebooks in ereaders to ebooks in the cloud.  As the ebook in the ereader stands with the printed book as a “reified content object,” the cloud gathers.

Bookmark for your browser or your ereader? | Updating the debate — the cloud gathers

The original posting (20120815) begins beneath the image.  The updates are flagged below.

 

 

Somewhat similar to the discussion kicked off by Jason Pontin in Technology Review, this collection of viewpoints pulled together by Anna Lewis of ValoBox for The Bookseller‘s digital blog FutureBook puts the case for HTML5 over the app/device.

“. . . HTML5 has laid down a new marker in browser standards. Not only does it enable offline capability through caching of content, it also lets you create websites that feel like native apps. The browser is certainly becoming a very different beast. So, does this mean publishers should rethink their approach to the browser, and see it as a way to deliver content, not just discover it?”

How the answers to this question play out affects the evolution of the book.   Bookmark the concept if not this web page.

Other books in browsers covered include 24symbols, Padify and the Internet Archive.  Follow these up on Lewis’s FutureBook posting.  Offline, commentators have suggested Amazon’s Cloud Reader and Firefox’s EPUB Reader as well.   

Also a three-part series of postings by Bill McCoy, Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), has begun at Tools of Change today (20120816).  The first in the series articulates a key point about the book as content,

“. . . over time there will continue to be an increasing ability to conveniently publish directly to the cloud, as well as increasing acceptance by end users of cloud-based consumption. Perhaps someday the idea of a “file” will even become obsolete. But, at a minimum for many years to come – and possibly forever – it seems obvious that there will continue to be a significant role for reified content objects [italics added], particularly portable documents.”

Books On Books will add links to the second and third of McCoy’s postings by as they occur.  The concept of the book as a reified content object (techy as the phrase may be) has its bibliographic and critical forerunners (in the work of McKerrow, Benjamin, Barthes, Ong and others) and its contemporaries (in the work of Illich, Hayles, Michael Joyce and others).

On its surface, the debate in which HTML5, EPUB 3, iOS apps, the ebook, the cloud are swimming seems to be a competition of technical approaches and tools.  Beneath its surface, however, stirs something vital to the future of the book.

Updated bookmark begins here (20120817) . . .

Before Bill McCoy’s next posting (see above for the first), Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World (DBW) usefully flagged a timely collection of postings supporting “the cloud trumps the future” perspective on ebooks:  Hachette’s return on its investment in the cloud, the State Department backing off its Kindle deal in order to research other options (cloud-based being the implication), the major textbook publishers’ adaptation to Virtual Learning Systems and MOOCs (massive open online courses), etc.

The “cloud” view, however, recalls an apt caution Michael Joyce made in his Adam Helms lecture in Stockholm in 2001:

    Digital culture reels and swaggers like a drunken plowman who dreams of taking flight, relieved of mortal weight and presence. . . . an old dream, perhaps the oldest of human culture . . . . Much is made of how the digital escapes fixedness, . . . from electrons hurtling along copper corridors, upward to switched registers of transient values, and ultimately to brilliant phosphor letterforms which disappear like fireflies in a billion recurring twilights of a nanosecond’s duration.

    However we situate ourselves in place and time alike.  Cyberspace is not exempt from the mortal and moral geometry wherein we place our hope and find out future.

This from one of the pioneers of the ebook.  What is ironic here and now is that Joyce made these comments while comparing ebooks to print books, yet today they are equally applicable when comparing ebooks in ereaders to ebooks in the cloud.  As the ebook in the ereader stands with the printed book as a “reified content object,” the cloud gathers.

Let us not to the marriage of print and digital admit impediments

See on Scoop.itBooks On Books

The Bodleian is offering a prize draw to attract participation in its crowdfunding for the digitization of its First Folio.

“Dr Paul Nash, an award-winning printer, will reprint Leonard Digges’s poem in praise of Shakespeare from the front matter of the First Folio. It will be printed on a folio bifolium of English, hand-made paper and printed in the Bodleian Hand-Printing Workshop at the Story Museum.  The text will be composed by hand, using types first cast in the 17th century, with ornaments.  Each sheet will be printed with a title and colophon, sewn into a paper cover.”

They call this “kickstart” the “Sprint for Shakespeare” in conjunction with the cultural and sports Olympics events going on this year.

Where there’s a Will, there should be a way.

See on shakespeare.bodleian.ox.ac.uk