digitization in Barok 2014
ctural items, ie. the author, publisher, place and year of publication, words in
title, and disciplines, does not at all revert this tendency, but rather extends it to
the web as well.
I do not intend to underestimate the value and benefits of library work, nor the
importance of discipline-centered writing or of the recognition of the oeuvre of
the author. But consider an author working on an article who in the early phase
of his research needs to prepare a bibliography on the activity of Fluxus in central Europe or on the use of documentary film in education. Such research cuts
through national boundaries and/or branches of disciplines and he is left to travel
not only to locate artefacts, protagonists and experts in the field but also to find
literature, which in turn makes even the mere process of compiling bibliography
relatively demanding and costly activity.
In this sense, the digitization of publications and archival material, providing their
free online access and enabling fulltext search, in other words “open access”, catalyzes research across political-geographical and disciplinary configurations. Because while the index of the printed book contains only selected terms and for
the purposes of searching the index across several books the researcher has to have
them all at hand, the software-enabled search in digitized texts (with a good OCR)
works with the index of every single term in all of them.
This kind of research also obviously benefits from online translation tools, multilingual case bibliographies online, as well as second hand bookstores and small
specialized libraries that provide a corrective role to public ones, and whose “open
access” potential has been explored to the very small extent until now, but which
I won’t discuss here further for the la
gard to the research, writing, reading, and publishing.
The analogy between information agencies and national libraries also points to
the fact that large portion of publications, particularly those created in software,
is electronic. However the exceptions are significant. They include works made,
typeset, illustrated and copied manually, such as manuscripts written on paper
or other media, by hand or using a typewriter or other mechanic means, and
other pre-digital techniques such as lithography, offset, etc., or various forms of
writing such as clay tablets, rolls, codices, in other words the history of print and
publishing in its striking variety, all of which provide authors and publishers with
heterogenous means of expression. Although this “segment” is today generally
perceived as artists’ books interesting primarily for collectors, the current process
of massive digitization has triggered the revival, comebacks, transformations and
novel approaches to publishing. And it is these publications whose nature is closer
to the label ‘book’ rather than the automated electro-chemical version of the offset
lithography of digital files on acid-free paper.
Despite that it is remarkable to observe a view spreading among publishers that
books created in software are books with attributes we have known for ages. On
top of that there is a tendency to handle files such as PDFs, EPUBs, MOBIs and
others as if they are printed books, even subject to the rules of limited edition, a
consequence of what can be found in the rise of so called electronic libraries that
“borrow” PDF files and while someone reads one, other users are left to wait in
Whilst, from today’s point of view of the humanities research, mass-printed books
are in the first place archives
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