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LIBLICENSE-L  April 2015

LIBLICENSE-L April 2015

Subject:

Re: futures of the book

From:

LIBLICENSE <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

LibLicense-L Discussion Forum <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 1 Apr 2015 19:18:55 -0400

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From: Sandy Thatcher <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2015 23:43:48 -0500

The kind of document Darnton described (following Cornell librarian
Ross Atkinson) is far more multidirectional, multilayered, and
interactive than any codex book could ever be. This is how I described
what Atkinson had in mind in my ATG essay:

His term for this "new kind" of document structure is "concentric
stratification," which "might consist of a top level that would
contain some kind of extended abstract; this level or stratum would
then be connected to the next level, and so on. Each succeeding level
would contain the information in the previous level, but would provide
in addition greater degrees of substance and detail. Scholarly
communications that would require an extended context, and would
therefore deserve a monograph in the paper environment, would in the
online environment merely include more levels than would a
communication that would in a print environment have been published as
a journal article." As hinted here, Atkinson sees electronic
publishing as breaking down the dichotomy between monographs and
journal articles, and he also sees reading shifting from a linear form
to something "that is done, so to speak, in three dimensions: first,
one can read horizontally or linearly within any level of a given
publication; second, one can read vertically or hierarchically through
the levels of any particular publication; and, third, one can read
referentially back through the constituent citations (be these
explicit or implicit) into other texts on the network."

It struck me that this approach could open up wonderful opportunities
to make available often esoteric research to a variety of audiences,
ranging from lay people and journalists wanting basic information
about new research results in down-to-earth language to highly trained
specialists who want every last detail including references to data on
which the results reported are based-and everyone in between. If this
were to become the future path of scholarly publishing, I could
readily envisage roles for university editors, reference librarians,
and public information staff-not to mention computer experts-to play
in creating such multifaceted, multilayered documents.

Does this sound like the traditional codex book?

Sandy Thatcher



From: "Jim O'Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:35:10 -0400

Sandy, I'm going to disagree LOUDLY with your assertion that the book
is a linear document with a beginning, middle, and end.  If it were,
I'd be a happy camper with Kindles and Nooks and PDFs.  The codex book
for sixteen hundred years has been a profoundly nonlinear document,
with lots of easy flipping back and forth, cross-references, indices,
tables of contents, illustrations tipped in together in one section,
maps constantly harked back to for ready reference, footnotes, even
(SHUDDER!) the endnotes that publishers think people prefer,
bibliographies, and the like.  What we have now in digital form is the
electronic papyrus scroll:  start at the beginning and follow it
slavishly through to the end.  If some smart puppy invents something
in which the electronic representation does *not* represent a
significant step back from the codex, I'll be delighted.  The
opportunity is there for the grasping.

Jim O'Donnell


On Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 6:58 PM, LIBLICENSE <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> From: Sandy Thatcher <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Sun, 29 Mar 2015 17:43:46 -0500
>
> Yes, as Jim says, we now have a choice of reading books in a wide
> variety of formats on a wide variety of different platforms. But,
> basically, the book has remained what it has always been since the age
> of Gutenberg, viz., a linear document with a beginning, middle, and
> end. The advent of new technology has done little to change this.
> There are two exceptions, both related and both originally funded by
> Mellon: the ACLS Humanities Ebook Project and Gutenberg-e. Both were
> inspired by Robert Darnton, who wrote about a new type of

> multilayered, multidimensional, interactive document in his classic
> NYRB essay "The New Age of the Book" (March 1999), which can be freely
> accessed by Googling the title.
>
> The first of these projects focused on works by senior scholars, the
> other on revised dissertations. The latter was operated by Columbia
> University Press, the former by a separate entity that drew upon
> participation by some twenty presses.  The ACLS project was more
> successful financially than Gutenberg-e, mainly because it
> incorporated backlist titles in newly digitized form.  Gutenberg-e
> struggled for a variety of reasons, as I pointed out in this article
> in Against the Grain:
>
> https://scholarsphere.psu.edu/files/9880vr53k#.VRh6izvF9q4.
>
> (One reason is that book reviews of professional journals insisted on
> having a hard copy of an online work that had no exact print
> counterpart.) But both served to pave the way toward a different kind
> of future. It would appear, from the description of these two new
> Mellon-funded initiatives, that that future has arrived. Better late
> than never.
>
> Sandy Thatcher
>
>
>> From: "Jim O'Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
>> Date: Sun, 29 Mar 2015 06:54:06 -0700
>>
>> Three different messages cross my screen and seem to speak to each other.
>>
>> First, study of what is actually happening with the academic book in
>> particular in a time of many formats, changes in reading practices,
>> and abundant distractions.
>>
>> http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/03/24/the-academic-book-of-the-future/
>>
>> Second, reports of funding for two well-admired institutions to take
>> the hard work of production forward.
>>
>> http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/22771-mellon-funds-u-m-press-collaboration-to-create-new-ecosystem-for-digital-scholarship
>>
>> http://library.stanford.edu/news/2015/01/stanford-university-press-awarded-12-million-publishing-interactive-scholarly-works
>>
>> Two related observations from this scholar-librarian:
>>
>> 1.  It's interesting that we are just in a moment in which we seem to
>> have shrugged just a bit about format -- ok, fine, so we'll read them
>> in hardcover, softcover, Kindle, web, PDF we might print out,
>> whatever.  That does seem to describe practice and I'm perfectly happy
>> to say that I embody it -- I'll read whatever I read however seems,
>> unreflectively, to be most convenient to me, a convenience driven by
>> availability, price, accident, and whimsy.  OK, fine, but there's lots
>> of reasons to think that *how* we read is not a matter of
>> indifference, that the way we read, what we retain, and what we can do
>> with what we've read will differ widely based on format and reading
>> practice.  There's something happening here and just at the moment
>> many people aren't particularly paying attention or making
>> well-informed choices.
>>
>> 2.  There's a larger story I've not seen written, where I think we're
>> already in chapter 6.  As the media change and as the reading
>> practices change and as the business models change, it seems obvious
>> that the books we actually produce and consume will be changing.  If
>> even university presses need to work harder to sell books, if everyone
>> has too much to read, and if everyone is reading their books and
>> journal articles while *also* reading blog postings and tweets, it
>> would seem likely that the nature of the things written and published
>> as "scholarly books" will be changing.  Anecdotally, I think I see
>> that's true.  Has it been studied carefully and made sense of?
>>
>> Together my observations say that what Michigan and Stanford
>> are doing is quite important and quite non-trivial.  It's not a question of
>> migrating formats and migrating business models *only*, but a question
>> of what we are doing when we read and write scholarly work and therefore
>> what the forms of production and consumption might be.  McLuhan said
>> the content of a new medium was an old medium:  so we've tried for
>> the "e-book". Are we now ready for the electronic "post-book"?
>>
>> Jim O'Donnell
>> ASU

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