Roberto Verzola on 4 Oct 2000 15:40:46 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> books and cdroms


 >The question of permanence does not to me have a clear answer. Some books
 >and a lot of periodicals and practically all newspapers are not any more
 >permanent than cdroms. There is a good argument to be made that digital
 >media, because of their replicability, offer greater permanence than
 >do books.

You can't be serious about this point, can you? To read, books need no
other tool except perhaps eyeglasses for some. Their permanence relies
only on the book's resistance to physical degradation. The cdrom is as
"permanent" as the stack of technologies needed to read it - the
production of electricity; the conversion of electricity; the reader
hardware; the reading software; the operating system; the cdrom
format; etc. Some of these change every few years or so, with new and
incompatible technologies arising every decade or so. Even a major oil
crisis can upset this stack of technologies.

In some sense, a book resists physical degradation better than a
cdrom. I've seen cdroms become unreadable after several scratches. In
fact, existing technologies can make the book even more permanent. For
instance, I've seen paper-like plastic calling cards which I couldn't
tear at all. I can imagine some books using such material for their
pages, so they degrade less over time.

 >Because of letterpress's distance in technological evolution from digital
 >media, the peculiarities of the process become that much clearer, which in
 >turn render the peculiarities of the digital apparent once again. I could
 >be doing a similar kind of project using dot matrix printers, and I know
 >some people who have done just that, but letterpress is even further
 >removed formally, and so creates a higher contrast when combined with
 >digital elements (like Alan Sondheim's texts).

I don't quite understand: if we are debating the pros and cons of book
printing and cdroms, isn't it stacking the debate unfairly if you
compare an obsolete form of book printing with the most recent form of
cdrom technologies?

Why don't you compare, instead, the latest book printing technologies
(say, book-on-demand, one-off printing, etc.) with cdroms or dvds?

I acknowledge searchability as a major advantage of the cdrom. I could
imagine myself occasionally using the cdrom version for this purpose
but still using the book for serious reading. In fact, as technology
progresses, I can imagine the inside back cover of the book, for
instance, containing a machine-readable version of an index (or even
the full text). Whenever I need to do a search, I can use a reader on
the back cover. Then back to my book. I could lose that index, but I
still have the book.

Why adapt the human to the technology? Why not adapt the technology to
the human? The book makes me feel free; a cdrom leaves me feeling
chained to technology.

Roberto Verzola

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