Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Case for Books

Robert Darnton, The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (New York: Public Affairs, 2009) brings together a decade of Darnton's musings about books, the history of books as a field, bibliography, digitization and e-books, and the Google book deal. Highly recommended, even if Darnton, an eminent historian, does tend to ignore writings from within librarianship, LIS, and archives relevant to his topics.

1 comment:

karen_w said...

..."Highly recommended, even if Darnton, an eminent historian, does tend to ignore writings from within librarianship, LIS, and archives relevant to his topics.
posted by Richard J. Cox at 9:15 AM on Dec 24, 2009"

re: ignore writings, what? this is rather generalized.
It's also an irony when so few LIS programs even teach such subjects anymore in terms of libraries, at time when they are being showcased rather than become more hidden.

You & other readers might be interested in a recent NPR interview & a recent panel held at Harvard where Dr. Darnton, not only an eminent historian, but also Director of Harvard University Library, participated in.

DRS Hour Mon 11.23.2009

listen to Robert Darnton on a recent morning's National Public Radio show, with Diane Rehm,

Most recent book is called The Case for Books. Robert Darnton is director of Harvard University Library
and Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor - an interesting interview available at the link below / Karen W

A related news article: "Learning's online fate" Harvard University Gazette
report on a panel held Nov 18th - No more teachers? No more books?

By Corydon Ireland
Harvard Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009

"This expansive, open age of digital information challenges the traditions of scholarship, learning, and even the act of reading. So what will be the fate of higher education in the digital age?"

"That was the subject of a Harvard panel on Wednesday (Nov. 18), "No More Teachers? No More Books?" It is the first of four such sponsored panels this academic year by the Harvard Extension School, which celebrates its 100th year in February.

The panel included Harry Lewis, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science; David Weinberger, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library and Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor; Craig Silverstein '94, the director of technology at Google; and Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self."


"But wait a minute, countered Darnton, a historian as well as library leader. The book is not dead."

"The old-fashioned print codex is doing very well, thank you," turning out something like a million new titles a year worldwide, he said. Darnton is the author of "The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future" (2009) and is a cautionary critic on leaping too fast into the digital age."

"Not all knowledge can be captured in bytes, just as not all knowledge was ever captured in books, he believes, and the best future will be one in which the digital and the traditional coexist."

"The digital age brings with it "a period of enormous confusion … a new world in which we need guidance," said Darnton. That's good news for the idea of "teachers and books," he said, the "two implements" of traditional learning that must be embraced with new attention."

"Meanwhile, there is reason to worry about print-digitization projects such as Google Books. Technicians scanning texts may use wrong editions, miss pages or volumes, or employ arbitrary categories for the finished, digitized books. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," Darnton said, "comes up under gardening." "

"A bigger worry, he said, is that so much information winds up in the hands of a "corporate monopoly." Despite glitches, the Google project is "so good" that it should not be in private hands, said Darnton. "It should be harnessed for the public good.""

-Cheers, Karen W.