Meek Inheritance

Those who are friends both to libraries and books and also to the unique promise of the internet, are almost inevitably transfixed by Project Gutenberg and Google Books and their ambitious projects to digitize and scan enormous quantities of classic texts and make them available to the world.

There is a grand nobility in these ambitious drives to enable ready access for all to immense stores of knowledge and information. But this nobility is paralleled by the delusional hubris of those who believe that the book, and libraries themselves, will inevitably be obsolesced by the advent of books online. (In quite the same way, one imagines, that the motion picture completely eliminated the novel, or in turn, the way that television expunged the movies.)

Whatever your opinion on the topic, read Paul Duguid’s excellent “Inheritance and Loss? A Brief Survey of Google Books” in last summer’s First Monday.

Humility and skepticism always earn their due.

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