Real books should be preserved like papyrus scrolls | Books | theguardian.com.
A little over a week ago Rick Gekoski wrote this important piece in the British magazine, The Guardian (posted Jan.27, 2014). In it he sounds the alarm about the overuse of digitalization (e-versions of books, magazines, etc.) and points to the important place which libraries have had and must continue to have in preserving printed materials. Perhaps, as he says, libraries in the future will only be repositories of rare books.
That is not enough for me. The past, present, and future ought to be preserved in printed form. To my mind, printed books and magazines -even images – will continue to have relevance to the end of the age. But I can imagine today’s generation might feel differently. Just don’t close the libraries in my lifetime. :)
I have posted a few paragraphs of Gekoski’s thoughts here, and encourage you to follow the link to the rest of his article.
You can burn books, but you cannot burn them all. But in a future electronic world, there will be a ghastly contingency about the written word, and we have to begin thinking – now! – about how this may be resisted.
The role of libraries is essential here, as secure repositories for the written word. And here I must admit a fear. In their rush to digitisation – an enthusiasm I find in most librarians I meet – there is the danger that libraries may too quickly abandon their crucial historical role. Already they have cut back, for instance, on the purchase of magazines and journals, and subscribed, instead, to their electronic versions. Think of all the shelf space that you free! How convenient not to have to arrange and rearrange, add texts as they arrive, dust and archivally preserve! But these new electronic versions may prove as fragile as the papyrus scrolls of Herculaneum and Alexandria: one moment of conflagration and they are gone.
If we can preserve and encourage the impulse to read, electronic books are a boon. They make reading available in the poorest parts of the world, where there are all too few books, which often have to survive, like their owners, in uncongenial conditions. But as Jeanette Winterson nostalgically observes, no electronic reader can accomplish the multitude of tasks that a library can, because it is a real place filled with real people. And real books, though they already feel expendable.
…As a species we are altogether neglectful with regard to our heritage and historical records. We lose, destroy, throw away, burn, delete, tear down, modernise. Things fall into disuse, then desuetude. We need to oppose this with all our energies: to resist the increasing pressure on funds and shelf space, and the deterioration of the objects themselves, to counter with strong reason the voices that will increasingly and aggressively complain: what do we need those dusty old things for anyway?
And the answer is that if once books were the providers of sacred texts, they must themselves come to be regarded as sacred objects, and be protected, preserved, studied and admired as we now value the cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls of our ancestors. Libraries are our repositories of paper. For 700 or 800 years paper has been how we have known ourselves and each other, recorded our events, thoughts and feelings, aspirations and memories.