Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Betting on the Future of the Book

The folks at if:book have issued an invitation to participate in an NEH-funded effort to create "two ambitious digital publishing projects." Their goal is to merge rich multimedia, which so-far largely exists on CDs and hard drives, with internet collaboration, which so far "generally occurs around predominantly textual media."

I find it fascinating that their goal is explicitly to emulate a book:

The printed book is still the gold standard of the academy. The goal of these projects is to produce born-digital works that are as elegant as printed books and also draw on the power of audio and video illustrations and new models of community-based inquiry — and do all of these so well that they inspire a generation of young scholars with the promise of digital scholarship.

It seems like the logical end-point of this line of development would likely look very much like the books on my shelf, or maybe even Dori's beautiful artbook pictured at the left top of this blog, except that the pages inside would contain electronic media. But if that is the end produce, in what sense would that be anything but ... a book?

Meanwhile, the folks at the Long Now Foundation who spend time worrying about a "digital dark age" in our future, are placing their bets on laser-etched titanium for preserving the world knowledge, or at least its languages. They've announced that their Rosetta Disk Project is now complete. You, too, can help preserve this knowledge by taking home one of the last two first-edition disks--for $25,000, or so.

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