Information (Im)permanence

Comment Icon0 As a companion to the previous post about the preservation of news in all its forms, there’s a new wrinkle in the debate about “the death of the book.” Never mind your preference for reading in the bathtub, or keeping a book shoved in the backseat of the car for emergencies like a road flare, the best reason for maintaining print copies of all types of material is their inherent incorruptibility:

Comment Icon0 Consider what might happen if a scholar releases a book on radical Islam exclusively in a digital format. The US government, after reviewing the work, determines that certain passages amount to national security threat, and sends Amazon and the publisher national security letters demanding the offending passages be removed. Now not only will anyone who purchases the book get the new, censored copy, but anyone who had bought the book previously and then syncs their Kindle with Amazon—to buy another book, pay a bill, how long does cocaine last in your body, whatever—will, probably unknowingly, have the old version replaced by the new, “cleaned up” version on their device. The original version was never printed, and now it’s like it didn’t even exist. What’s more, the government now has a list of everyone who downloaded both the old and new versions of the book.

Comment Icon0 Nicholas Carr wades into the fray with an Orwellian thought:

Comment Icon0 If you look ahead, speculatively, to a time when more and more books start being published only in electronic versions and distributed through Kindles, smartphones, PCs, and other connected devices, does history begin to become as provisional as the text in the books?

Comment Icon0 Would that make an all-digital library akin to the Ministry of Truth, updatable to reflect only current ideologies? That’s a little extreme, but it is worth noting that this kind of electronic censorship is much more dangerous because it is so subtle. There are no Nazis cheering around blazing pyres of books, only a little anonymous “fixing” cutting and pasting. See?

About rkroberts

Becky Roberts Manager of Information Literacy and Assessment Maag Library 1 University Plaza Youngstown, OH 44555 330-941-1720
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