November 9, 2008

NY Book Review Article - “The New Age of the Book”

Original Post from September 20th 2007.

This NY Book Review Article dates from 1999 and focuses on University book publications and spends in my opinion too much time lamenting the demise of the academic "monograph" due to reduced spending (due to increased spending by libraries on periodicals) and limited University press funding for their editing and production.

Nominally about a "New Age of the Book" I find it spends too much time discussing the status quo or current state of things. I guess you could consider the current "problematic" situation he describes the "New Age of the Book" vs. the Past, but it's not what I'd expect from such a title.

Towards the end of the article the author touches on eBooks and how they could help/affect it.

That is the most interesting part, where he (too) briefly explores the idea for a new kind of book, with a pyramidal structure of "layers" each targeted at a different audience with different motivations for reading it, that builds on the previous "layer". Some of that could be implemented (and maybe even is!) with the web, but it's interesting to think of this idea translated into an "off-line" book reading experience.

His conclusion is that the eBook will have a future, but as a complement to the existing printed book - although this topic is not explored extensively in the article in my opinion.

For Tech Historians, the mention of the Memex can lead you off down a very interesting side-road that some argue described the World-Wide-Web (or similar) in 1945...see Wikipedia entry on Memex

Lastly he mentions a few initiatives undertaken with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the use of eBooks in the conversion of dissertations into electronic monographs. Tracking their progress, result, learnings and conclusions maybe useful.

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