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    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010
    Personally i prefer the good old well known format, paper-style, hardbacks, paperbacks..
    What do you think of the epub format, with the e-readers and ipad and it gonna come full blown? does it stand in time?
    • CommentTimeApr 24th 2010
    For studying, PDF or e-Pub seems more convenient than paper to me. This refers to searching and finding, making notes, preparing bibliographies, re-check reading that is far back in the past. It needs no carrying books from and to libraries, no overcrowded shelves, no care for the paper and binding. My source material is always at hand at any time. I do not see any reason to prefer books any more.

    Although I do not like the concept of Apple controlling my iPad -- content and software -- via the Apple store, I am considering to buy one just to read and -- hopefully -- make annotations that I can use on my computer as well. Even better if another company produces a similar device without censorship, I will buy that.

    As far as reading for fun is concerned, I would like a beautiful e-Reader with e-paper. Although I loved books, I welcome the future.

    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2010
    Well, the future's a-coming, whether we welcome it or not, and whatever it may be. But I think there are reasons why we should regret the passing of the physical book (if that is what is to happen).

    The first reason is the longevity of the physical book. I have several books that were printed in the C19th, all in fairly good nick. I have one from 1942 that is pristine, despite an apologetic note from the publisher saying that, owing to the "current" paper shortage, it was to be printed on the cheapest paper. These books are old, but they are babies compared to the books, documents and codices you'll find in any decent museum. Many versions of the Magna Carta still exist after the best part of 800 years. The Domesday Book is even older, and is still legible (if you can read Latin). It's on view at Kew, and online.

    Compare this with the short life of any form of electronic media. Back in 1986, the BBC created a digital "domesday book", a collection of documents and pictures about life in modern Britain so that archeologists of the future could find out about our age. Within fifteen years, the format was obsolete and the disks had degraded into near-unreadability. The data was in fact saved, but only with effort, expertise and cost.

    Now, of course, as formats change and media degrade, documents can always easily be migrated onto new media. But that depends on the copyright holders going to that effort. The holders may not have the resources, or they may just not be interested. Because of the speed with which old formats become obsolete and the media they are stored on degrade, this is not a decision that can be put off. True, there will always be experts who will resurrect your old data, but only for a short time, and with only limited sucess. Even if the documents are stored on-line, their continued existence depends on the copyright holder paying the web host fees (Google's Data Liberation Front notwithstanding). Here is a fundamental difference between a physical and an e-Book: a physical book has to actively be destroyed - its natural tendency, left alone, is to survive for at least a century; while its digital equivalent has to have frequent and regular interventions by humans who care enough about it to preserve it even for a few years - its natural tendency is to be lost. As an example, my book from 1942 is a first edition by an important British author, but is not in itself regarded as important except to a few scholars and readers interested in the man. It has never been reprinted (although it is scheduled to be in 2011), and so it seems reasonable to say that it would no longer exist if it had been issued as an eBook seventy years ago. Similarly, many books that (in a few years) will be issued on digital-only might not exist in even the near future. We can't know, of course, but that seems likely, and to my mind a bit of a pity. I worry that in a century or two this age will be "dark" - historians of that time will have no knowledge of us and our achievements, simply because the formats are unreadable. As I say, a bit of a pity.

    (Continued in next post).
    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2010
    The second reason to regret the passing of the physical book is the way it has made knowledge too easy to acquire. This might seem a little paradoxical. It's related to M's (indisputably true) point above that eBooks have so many conveniences and advantages that no one could possibly prefer physical books any more.

    A few years ago, if I wanted to find out something and it wasn't straightforward, I'd have to consult my home library, do a lot of thinking to try and work it out on my own, fail, travel to the local library, look it up in maybe half a dozen different reference books, consult some textbooks to learn about the subject so that I understood the answer the reference books were giving me, and all the while taking copious notes so that I wouldn't have to go through the process again. These days I can find the answer to the most convoluted question within a few minutes from the Web and my eBooks, and cut and paste the answer to a general purpose notetaker like DevonThink. No need to research it, no need to think, no need to copy out quotes in longhand, no real need to learn - in fact, now you mention it, no real need to find out the answer at all, since it's so easy and quick I can do it any time I want. Here's the paradox: because I can learn anything I want to know whenever I want, why should I go the effort of learning anything at just this moment?

    I'm conscious I'm not expressing this very well - it's only half formed in my mind. But I am afraid that future generations will be passive students. They will have the bookmarks on their computer, and possibly lots of data in their heads - but no knowledge. I'm not even sure this is a bad thing, but it will be different. I myself must have hundreds of documents and books on my computers, all with the intention of reading in detail at some future time; I doubt I ever shall. There is no cost to storing them, and so I can always... do my research tomorrow. In contrast, my (physical) books take up space, they need dusting, they're a real problem when I move - and I can lay claim to being fairly intimate with the contents of every single one of them. There's a cost to them, and I make sure they pay their way (throwing out any that don't).

    Time to wind up. So, in short, although I use and love eBooks and their like, I do regret their coming and rather wish the world wasn't changing quite so fast. (Fat lot of difference what I think will make, though.)

    • CommentTimeMay 16th 2010
    1. For articles, PDF's have long been the favourite medium. Convenience (prtability and annotation) is one. On my Cinema Display, I also have two A4's side by side.
    2. The same does not apply to books, at least not to the same extent. I stoill prefer to read books in hardcover. Yet once every while I like to search its PDF.
    3. In many fields, the fast and furious have overtaken traditional domains. But there is a fringe for the "slow movement". In food production, in life without mobile media, in film cameras where digital photographers rediscover the slower medium of film that requires thinking and planning.

    Would a slow life equivalent of books not always remain on the cards?