Hm, quite a mix of emotions again. Vid, you know what you are doing, don't you? Enabling me to talk about books here? Could be dangerous for all of us. What if I couldn't stop talking anymore? What if I started loosing all sense of relevance and proportion? What if I entered the realms of the awfully anecdotical, like telling you about that goldmine I once found, being the uncredible collection of a deceased booklover? Why can some "do" with only a few books? Because the association-field, the content -both actual and potential- of each separate book is metaphorically "infinite", my pathetic project being to collect an infinity of infinities. Take Shakespeare for example: take him to that island, and you'll take the world with you (you know the old question of course: if you could take but one book with you to an uninhabited island...?). Ok, I guess we understand each other, and I will not give an extensive reaction on your posting, especially not about the technicalities of conservation. Personally I have only a few books with brittle paper, but I am more concerned about the general conservation-conditions in a house that is also inhabited by humans. This may not be the best temperature or the best of relative humidity, and there is also too much light here; I can almost hear the molecules snap. No, just a few random theses now, that may be provocative enough to invite a broader audience. Mind I tend to use some (?) rhetorical exageration, but everybody here will be able to see that in the right perspective. On the Forum one must speak loud enough to be heard, and these matters are not unimportant...
-From the conservational point of view the computer is often the enemy of the traditional book. The massive digitisation drains funds and energy from the careful conservation of a medium tested by the centuries, being the paper "codex" or hard-copy book. Hard-copy books are vulnerable and will always have many enemies, but (quality) paper is also relatively resistent and parchment is almost eternal. And this while the various ways of digital coding and formatting are still hardly established, and will almost certainly become a huge problem in the future. The present day pre-occupation with digitisation suffers from a short term perspective, and is in fact largely determined by the personal ambitions and the commercial interests of those involved. Some librarians are career-minded and would do anything to stay in the spotlight. Thousands of books becoming less important than their power-points.
-Books are free to go their own way through the world, eventually to be found in a mildewed cartboard box (*). The digitisation of the book may lead to the control of a few firms and their assets (G..?) over mankinds cultural heritage. In fact G... doesn't give a d... about the "real value" of the books they digitise, or about mankind's cultural heritage. They only want to consolidate their market-position, create a return-on-investment, get break-even and increase their stock value, all this on a worldwide competitive information-market. And digitisation happens to be another way to attract "traffic"; the rest is for the marketing departement, where they learn to use the right words towards librarians and to manipulate their ideology. In fact the whole thing is just another economic power-play and culture is not only a market, it is becoming a hostage. I hope people realise that after digitisation G... will try to destroy all hard-copy books, because in spite of all efforts they will not easily destroy by themselves. Hey, somebody has some rusty old gun for me? ;-)
-The digitisation of the world's books has only a relative worth from the point of view of access and indexing, but it is NOT stimulating reading. On the contrary the computer hollows out reading, being the time-consuming and effortful assimilation of massive amounts of information (War and Peace is in the dutch translation over 1000 p., I overcame it ;-) ). The computer reduces the immense "Gestalt" of the book to a number of excerpts or citations. And once the young have found what they were looking for, they will hardly look any further, and hardly suspect there's a context or even a whole world behind the excerpt. By the way a little poll: who has ever read a complete book on a computer screen? Seems that reading War and Peace like that is just a perceptual problem for old farts like me, but I wonder...
Yes, old fashioned, reactionary, loving the smell of them, still seeing the magic, still feeling the discovery, here he is: the boy who was once dazzled by books and stayed for hours on the attic, reading, browsing, becoming the book, the book becoming himself, his heart, his ever-lasting love. I'm an old fart indeed, and I distrust computers, simple as that, but the book keeps me young at heart and passionate, as a reader as well as a collector. I think we somehow agree folks, and I'm happy to be around. But about books, and today's world... what are your thoughts??
(*) "Habent sua fata libelli". Books have their adventures (destiny?).