Re: [ACAT] Why have there been no rants about obsolete books?

Posting to Autocat

On 31/08/2012 00:09, john g marr wrote:

I never used to think that a book I purchased would become impossible to read. OK, is it possible that the reader (me) may become antiquated and irreplaceable.

When cell phones that would only work on specific “plans” came out, I thought that was a huge scam.

So what do we have now? Electronic “books” that are only readable on particular brands of readers, all of which could become as obsolete as old cell phones. Here we go again, and not a whimper from consumers…
In fact, consider the possibility that some of those electronic “books” might disappear completely.

Some of this is not new for libraries. The previous example is the loss of microforms of different types, and everytime the new format was proclaimed to last 500 years or something like that. “Vinegar syndrome” led to having to redo all of the microforms before the later 1980s. Today, the microforms are again supposed to last for 500 or 1000 years. Who will be around to say if they are right or wrong?

At the same time, there is an electronic version of one thing librarians use everyday–there are no paper backups–and there have been few problems with it: the library catalog. Records made decades ago still work fine, but they look and work completely differently from the DOS displays of 25 years ago. This is why I am much less concerned about digital preservation than others. So long as someone uses an acknowledged format, e.g. pdf, tiff, rtf, etc. and not “Jim Weinheimer’s new improved personal format”, especially if the format is an open standard, there will always be options to convert, just as we have done with our library catalog records. They may not look exactly the same, or work exactly the same, but the information will still be there.

From the physical viewpoint, everyone seems to understand that a disc drive can die at any time and it is normal for backups to be automated today.

If the format is proprietary, especially using various types of DRM, there will problems from the point of intellectual property and breaking the DRM, but these are major problems in many areas.

When comparing what is happening today with the period after printing, nobody talked seriously about preservation until the really lousy paper started disintegrating. It had taken some time for the producers to make paper with that much acid in it, and then it took even more time for the paper to break down badly enough in a sufficient number of books so that people finally realized there was a serious problem. Yet today, people know about the problems already and several measures have already been taken. So, while preservation/conservation is an issue and is important, I just do not believe that it is as serious as many believe.

Copyright and intellectual property are an entirely different, and I think, more difficult matter.