[LMB] why we still need paper books

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Thu Sep 22 06:32:57 BST 2011

Bruce Lamartine invented a technology which in effect turned a scanning 
tunneling microscope into a device to write at the atomic or subatomic 
level, and could write on elemental solid metals, which lifetimes of 
millions of years....

-----Original Message----- 
From: Elizabeth Holden
Sent: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 11:08 PM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
Subject: Re: [LMB] why we still need paper books

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.


thinking how ephemeral it all is
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