[LMB] why we still need paper books

Elizabeth Holden azurite at rogers.com
Thu Sep 22 04:08:18 BST 2011


Harimad said:

> Print has never been inaccessible.

It takes longer to become inaccessible.  But history is full of lost and forgotten human languages (with more dying every week), and no one can read the languages of Mohenjo-Daro, the Etruscans, Linear A,  or  the language of Easter Island, to name a few famous written examples.

The bulk of things written on paper may last a few years or a few centuries, depending on the care they're given.  But how many books do we have still existing, intact and readable, after two hundred years?  That's about the point, in my experience, where a book is housed in a climate-controlled archive and has to be read with gloves.  Vellum and papyrus last longer, but still need special conditions.

Print is lost all the time.  Paperbacks printed on cheap paper in the 1940s are disintegrating.  My Penguin books from the 1960s and 1970s are brittle and frail.  They won't last another generation.

Electronic books aren't subject to the same sort of decay, but they too have to be kept alive by electronic transmission. Take away the machine that reads them, you have nothing.

I don't know what the ideal medium is.  Sometimes oral tradition looks best, ephemeral as it is - but it's only good as long as people keep it alive.

The answer, then, is to keep information in as many forms as we can.  And to reprint.  And to remember.

namaste,
Elizabeth

thinking how ephemeral it all is



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