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July 8, 2009

World's Oldest Substantial Book Digitized

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript ? the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity ? is of supreme importance for the history of the book.
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April 29, 2009

Google's Settlement with the Author's Guild

If anyone is interested in where the Google Books settlement is at check out this update from Wired: DoJ Puts Google on Notice over Book Deal.
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April 22, 2009

'Longest copyright ... ever'

From "The BBC is reporting that the United Nations' World Digital Library has gone online with an initial offering of 1,200 ancient manuscripts, parchments and documents. ... Astonishingly, the collection is covered by numerous copyright laws, according to the legal page. Use of material from a given country is subject to whatever restrictions that country places, in addition to any local and international copyright laws. With some of the contributions being over 8,000 years old, this has to be the longest copyright extension ever offered. There is nothing on whether the original artists get royalties, however."
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April 2, 2009


Somewhere between a response and a summary here. So it goes...

John Siracusa, in ?The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age,? draws from his experience as a veteran of ?early?, that is the 1990?s, e-book industry to delineate some of the external obstacles and obstructions that face e-book adoption. The first and foremost of these tackled by Siracusa would certainly elicit a response from Marshall McLuhan. Siracusa draws a clear distinction between ?e-book?, the content or written words, and the readers or devices used to read them. His article is organized around this distinction, with content providers/sellers being distinct from device manufacture. His point is that ?e-books? cannot really be held up to most of the charges their critics apply to them, as questions of ease-of-use, aesthetics, durability, etc. all pertain to the devices used, not the ?e-book? proper, which can be, or could be, made to appear in any number of ways on any number of devices to suit individual needs or tastes(I believe that certain rapid print-on-demand services would easily fit into the range of devices through which e-books were displayed, but Siracusa does not really address this issue).

This confusion pointed to by Siracusa is clearly at work in Christine Rosen?s ?People of the Screen:?

?In our eagerness to upgrade or replace the book, we try to make reading easier, more convenient, more entertaining?forgetting that reading is also supposed to encourage us to challenge ourselves and to search for deeper meaning.?

An e-book does not replace the book, it might be argued in response. In the background of Rosen and other ?book critics? takedowns is a creeping idealization of the activity of reading, which tends to present reading as the grappling and long contemplation of difficult and long works of art or history. While there is nothing that prevents one from reading so, such a notion of ?the book? as ancient antagonist to ?e-books? may largely miss the point.

Reading is a complex set of activities, and e-book readers may be able to do many useful things better than the codex, which could justify them without recourse to whether or not Little Dorrit was better on paper or Kindle. As Mary Sebastian writes in ?Will the real iPod for reading stand up now please??

?[C]an we forget about the handful of eccentrics who want to ruin their eyes wading through War and Peace on a tiny LCD screen. Instead, let's bring on the real iPod for reading: something that lets me download, archive, tag annotate, share, playlist and categorise short-form works that would otherwise disappear into the link-rot mulch of yesterday's Web. Let's figure out a business model, an iTunes for micro-articles. Let's take short-form digital writing seriously.?

The debate over the Kindle may be more mundane after all, if as Sebastian asserts, the domain of ?the [great] book?, the canon?s lodestones, remains a frontier for such devices only to a straggled band of techno-fetishists. Who would want to read Great Expectations in one go at a screen? Is it necessary that one should want to do so for the Kindle to have value?

Seconding Rosen?s anxious pleas, Sven Birkerts seizes an even larger stake in ?the page-to-screen transfer,? in ?Resisting the Kindle.?

?I see in the turning of literal pages?pages bound in literal books?a compelling larger value, and perceive in the move away from the book a move away from a certain kind of cultural understanding, one that I?m not confident that we are replacing, never mind improving upon.?

Birkerts casts reading ?the book??notice the ?the? again paying homage to a peculiarly conceived, singular array of diverse printed materials?is a shared cognitive and experiential grounding to the modern world and the past. Not only are we in danger of losing our reams of paper and buckets of glue, foresees Birkerts, we are standing by while the venerable and august institutions that underwrite and maintain book culture are eroded in a cacophony of Wiki searches, twitters, and any of the thousand other things one can do with a wireless internet connection at a library or reading room besides attend to the words on the page.

?[T]hese structures [vast libraries and complicated filing systems] evolved over centuries in ways that map our collective endeavor to understand and express our world. The book is part of a system. And that system stands for the labor and taxonomy of human understanding, and to touch a book is to touch that system, however lightly.?

Birkerts warns us that we literally may be losing touch with our own ?collective endeavor to understand and express our world,? history and even humanity evaporating from the latent heat of handheld devices. Stepping back from such a high pitch, Birkerts points to the serious question of how the Kindle, and related devices, may change what he calls the ?deep structure? of reading. Will we lose hard won powers of contextualization? Will the same, rapid and vapid answers to our queries end up relentlessly recycled through a circuit of Wiki?s and automated responses? Will anyone read wholes when they can opt for specific parts to order?

In response to such resistance we may return to the distinction drawn by Siracusa between e-book and reading device. What is now blocking the adoption of e-books appears to be content deprivation, through overpricing, a lack of a central and comprehensive store to buy from and a lack of actual titles to purchase. No single device is yet linked with anything of the sort, although this may rapidly change with the size of the new players in the market.

There is not yet a system that makes it easy to produce, sell, pay, transfer, store, share, display, retransfer to separate devices, and organize e-books without shuffling between overpricing, non-compatibility, and proprietary DRM speed bumps. If there were, e-books, like mp3?s did, could start to find their way to more devices that already exist and more that are just beginning to meet the specific needs and tastes of different readers at different price points with different types of features for different types of content. Until then, most people will just have to twitter, facebook, SMS, etc. with their open book sitting on their lap.
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March 20, 2009

Robert Coover, "fiction writer and hypertext pioneer" talking in


Morris Visiting Artist Resident
novelist and hypertext pioneer

Fiction writer and hypertext pioneer, Robert Coover, will be visiting UB from March 25-27, 2009 under the auspices of a Visiting Artist Residency Grant. He will give 3 talks, two of which might be of interest to DHIB members. The first covers contemporary fiction and the digital revolution; the second is a VR and electronic media demo; and the last will be a discussion about the craft of creative writing, followed by an evening fiction reading. (See the schedule below)

Please join us!

Robert Coover's Schedule:

Wednesday March 25
538 Clemens
"A History of the Future of Narrative"
(a discussion of contemporary fiction and the digital revolution)
Refreshments in 306 Clemens following the event

Thursday March 26
CFA Screening Room
Virtual Reality and Electronic Media Demo
Refreshments following the event

Friday March 27
Poetry Collection
Creative Writing Conversation
Refreshments following the event

Fiction Reading
Albright Knox Gallery

Renowned, cutting edge novelist, short story writer, critic, and hypertext pioneer, Robert Coover, is the author of over twenty books?many of them controversial, all of them thought provoking?such as The Public Burning, The Origin of the Brunists, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre: Director?s Cut, Pricksongs and Descants, and most recently, Stepmother. Described by the New York Times as, "one of America's quirkiest writers, if by 'quirky' we mean an unwillingness to abide by ordinary fictional rules,? Coover?s fiction often examines darkly laughable elements of the human experience, drawing upon fairy tales, the history of baseball, religious cults, and perhaps most famously, the presidency of Richard Nixon and the Rosenberg trials. He remains a key figure in the postmodern novel, a groundbreaking founder of hypertext fiction, and his work?often described as subversive and dark, comic and grotesque?is core to understanding developments in the contemporary American novel.

As the T.B. Stowell Adjunct Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, Robert Coover is currently exploring the immersive virtual reality environments of "CaveWriting.? He is a founder of both the Electronic Literature Organization and Brown's Freedom to Write Program. Edmund White has called him, ? a one-man Big Bang of exploding creative force?; Ben Marcus, ?a brilliant mythmaker, a potty-mouthed Svengali, and an evil technician of metaphors?; and Michiko Kakutani, ?the funniest and most malicious,? of American postmodern writers, ?mixing up broad social and political satire with vaudeville turns, lewd pratfalls and clever word plays that make us rethink both the mechanics of the world and our relationship to it."

Visit the DHIB website at
and the DHIB wiki at
To sign off this list, go to this address:
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March 19, 2009

twitter in a hardcover

this is making its way around the blogs: someone published 2 years worth of tweets in a hardcover book (using lulu, another online self-publishing service).
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