Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Cheers for the Intertubes

As I am one of the alta-kockers of my grad program, I've been regaling the whippersnappers of what life was like before the Internet. First of all, the internet (and the cellphone) are utterly life-saving bits of technology that I (should) thank my Good Sweet Lord every day for. A vehi-ratzon, maybe? Anyway, before the intertubes, we needed to go to the physical building called the Libary (a.k.a. Library). And, while that could sound like a snide-bit of aggressive nostalgia, I will assure you that being chained to any physical book or building was *terrible* for learning things. The very existence of the reference section is testimony to how hard it was to find info: because if all you *could* research was limited by: (1) how large your library was, (2) what it's purchasing budget was deigned to be by the slack-jawed neanderthals who run local government, and (3) the book wasn't taken out/lost/misshelved.

This is why the internet should be credited with opening a revolution in information. This is also why I support any project - Google Books, or what have you - that will scan every single book ever published and put it online.

Those who oppose that project fall into three categories: (1) People who hate books, so why clog the valuable tubes with books when there's so much porn to tweet (or whatever); (2) aggressive nostalgics who want everyone to smell the sweet tang of paste, B.O. and dust mites that make up the musk of municipal libraries; (3) book publishers who like their undead brethren in the music industry, want to bottleneck supply so as to substantiate their poor career choice (what, you couldn't sell cigarettes to minors?)

It's the third group that's most menacing. They're akin to the insurance executives who deny coverage (because putting up physical roadblocks in front of ambulances is too time consuming, what with EMTs being so wily). I wish the anti-progress executives (cf. these industries: insurance, tobacco, oil, auto) would discover that while it is definitely EASIER to make money by choking off all potentially better alternatives (green tech, fuel efficiency etc) it is MORE LUCRATIVE to be the first in the great new technologies.

So too with publishing; the availability of online books is an absolute untrammeled good (ignoring the paste freaks above). Find a way to make money on the delivery systems (invest in the next generation kindles, por ejemplo). Know when it's time to step out of the way of the tsunami instead of trying to build a stronger stop-wall...

All this is a long-winded, hey-I'm-Back-Blogging intro to something I found the other day. The London Times is putting up the old (19th Centurty) archives online. Allowing we intertube surfers to read things like the book review for Tess of D'Ubervilles: Mr. Hardy's New Novel.*

[First pic from here, second here.]

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