Saturday, May 20, 2006

'The Moral Imperative to Scan'

Earlier this week librarian bloggers were pointing to the article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Kevin Kelly's Scan This Book! It's probably this year's big 'universal library' story. What's on the cover of the magazine is not the title but a précis: "What Will Happen to Books? Readers take heart! (Publisher, be very, very afraid.) Internet search engines will set them free." The link we've given you is from the New York Times website, and if that access expires, it will remain available from Proquest-- call the library for the login and password.

We have so far only skimmed the article, but quite like the little graphic on the top of page 49 in the print version. "When books are digitized, reading becomes a community activity," it says at one end of a snakey branched line. "Bookmarks can be shared with fellow readers. Marginalia can be broadcast. Bibliographies swapped." And then, "You might get an alert that your friend Carl has annotated a favorite book of yours. A moment later, his links are yours."

Nice. But I always also keep in mind what library thinker Walt Crawford wrote in 1998: "Paper persists." That ever-arriving electronic future still isn't quite here yet.

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