The Future of the Book
Geoffrey Nunberg, ed.

Farewell to the Information Age
Geoffrey Nunberg

On the Role of Books in the Digital Revolution

"There will be a digital revolution, but the printed book will be an important participant in it. And by the same token, there is no reason to expect the digital library to replace the brick-and-mortar library, even less so once we can make a physical replica of any book in the collection of the Gregorian University and put it on the shelves of a university library in Iowa or Lyon at the same time we make it available over the Web in digital form. In all of this we are surely to be seriously misled by analogies to technologies like movable type, which established a private opposition between two kinds of artifacts. There never was a technology less amenable to determinist arguments than this one" (104-105).

On Electronic Publishing

"A signal virtue of electronic technologies is to remove the capital and institutional impediments to the production and circulation of documents. As we're often reminded, 'anyone' can produce a document and make it accessible to thousands or millions of readers. And indeed, this is exactly what anyone has been doing in increasing numbers. (You think of what someone said about Greenwich Village in the 1950s, that it was home to 50,000 people who had a great letter to the editor in them.) In a certain sense, this could seem to be merely the continuation of a tendency that has been in progress for a long time" (125).

On Private Pixels and Public Print

"Still, it is unfair to expect electronic media to be the agents of sweeping social revolution or even for that matter of a complete overturning of the present order of discourse. And from the literary point of view, it is early days yet; really the appropriate comparison here is not to the Tatler or the Spectator, but to the seventeenth-century "news letters" and the like that antedated these forms and made them possible. The chief difference is that these new forms inhabit a public space that is already highly developed and differentiated, so that like other technological innovations (plastic furniture, for example), they will wind up assuming certain specialized functions alongside the established informational genres of print and their derivative electronic representations. This is the only quibble that I have with Derrida's description of the Net as being "in the process of transforming all the public and private space of humanity." Rather, I think we should look to electronic discourse to provide a counter and complement to the informational forms of print -- a domain that privileges the personal, the private, and the subjective against the impersonal, the public, and the objective" (133).

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