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, March 29, 2010

The Digital Publishing Future?

Jason Epstein imagines the digital future of publishing in the New York Review of Books. His stream-of-consciousness-like invocation of the digital future is "a predictable inference from digitization in its current stage of development." His occasional mention of the surprising and unpredictable nature of technological developments do not slow his imagination, though they do introduce some commendable notes of caution.

Despite the all-digital-all-the-time form of Epstein's vision, he argues that physical books will remain necessary.
Digital content is fragile. The secure retention, therefore, of physical books safe from electronic meddlers, predators, and the hazards of electronic storage is essential. ... actual books printed and bound will continue to be the irreplaceable repository of our collective wisdom.
His business model of decentralized digital publishing does not, however, explain how that will be financed.

At the end, he points to his stacks of books to show his allegiance to the material tome. But his entire piece emphasizes "the inevitability of digitization as an unimaginably powerful, but infinitely fragile, enhancement of the worldwide literacy on which we all—readers and nonreaders—depend."

But considering how unpredictable the short history of textual digitization has already been, who can say whether and in what regard he is right?