E(merging) BooksWritten by Sam Vaknin
A novel re-definition through experimentation of classical format of book is emerging.
Consider now defunct BookTailor. It used to sell its book customization software mainly to travel agents - but such software is likely to conquer other niches (such as legal and medical professions). It allows users to select bits and pieces from a library of e-books, combine them into a totally new tome and print and bind latter on demand. The client can also choose to buy end-product as an e-book. Consider what this simple business model does to entrenched and age old notions such as "original" and "copies", copyright, and book identifiers. What is "original" in this case? Is it final, user-customized book - or its sources? And if no customized book is identical to any other - what happens to intuitive notion of "copies"? Should BookTailor-generated books considered to be unique exemplars of one-copy print runs? If so, should each one receive a unique identifier (for instance, a unique ISBN)? Does user possess any rights in final product, composed and selected by him? What about copyrights of original authors?
Or take BookCrossing.com. On face of it, it presents no profound challenge to established publishing practices and to modern concept of intellectual property. Members register their books, obtain a BCID (BookCrossing ID Number) and then give book to someone, or simply leave it lying around for a total stranger to find. Henceforth, fate determines chain of events. Eventual successive owners of volume are supposed to report to BookCrossing (by e-mail) about book's and their whereabouts, thereby generating moving plots and mapping territory of literacy and bibliomania. This innocuous model subversively undermines concept - legal and moral - of ownership. It also expropriates book from realm of passive, inert objects and transforms it into a catalyst of human interactions across time and space. In other words, it returns book to its origins: a time capsule, a time machine and embodiment of a historical narrative.
The Affair of the Vanishing Content Written by Sam Vaknin
http://www.archive.org/ "Digitized information, especially on Internet, has such rapid turnover these days that total loss is norm. Civilization is developing severe amnesia as a result; indeed it may have become too amnesiac already to notice problem properly."
(Stewart Brand, President, The Long Now Foundation )
Thousands of articles and essays posted by hundreds of authors were lost forever when themestream.com surprisingly shut its virtual gates. A sizable portion of 1960 census, recorded on UNIVAC II-A tapes, is now inaccessible. Web hosts crash daily, erasing in process valuable content. Access to web sites is often suspended - or blocked altogether - because of a real (or imagined) violation by webmaster of host's Terms of Service (TOS). Millions of other web sites - results of collective, multi-annual, transcontinental efforts - contain unique stores of information in form of databases, articles, discussion threads, and links to other web sites. Consider "Central Europe Review". Its archives comprise more than 2500 articles and essays about every conceivable aspect of Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan. It is one of countless such collections.
Similar and much larger treasures have perished since dawn of digital age in 1920's. Very few early radio and TV programs have survived, for instance. The current "digital dark age" can be compared only to one which followed torching of Library of Alexandria. The more accessible and abundant information available to us - more devalued and common it becomes and less institutional and cultural memory we seem to possess. In battle between paper and screen, former has won formidably. Newspaper archives, dating back to 1700's are now being digitized - testifying to endurance, resilience, and longevity of paper.
Enter "Internet Libraries", or Digital Archival Repositories (DAR). These are libraries that provide free access to digital materials replicated across multiple servers ("safety in redundancy"). They contain Web pages, television programming, films, e-books, archives of discussion lists, etc. Such materials can help linguists trace development of language, journalists conduct research, scholars compare notes, students learn, and teachers teach. The Internet's evolution mirrors closely social and cultural history of North America at end of 20th century. If not preserved, our understanding of who we are and where we are going will be severely hampered. The clues to our future lie ensconced in our past. It is only guarantee against repeating mistakes of our predecessors. Long gone Web pages cached by likes of Google and Alexa constitute first tier of such archival undertaking.
The Stanford Archival Vault (SAV) in Stanford University assigns a numerical handle to every digital "object" (record) in a repository. The handle is clever numerical result of a mathematical formula whose input is number of information bits in original object being deposited. This allows to track and uniquely identify records across multiple repositories. It also prevents tampering. SAV also offers application layers. These allow programmers to develop digital archive software and permit users to change "view" (the interface) of an archive and thus to mine data. Its "reliability layer" verifies completeness and accuracy of digital repositories.