The Late Age of Print

The term "late age of print," borrowed from Ted Striphas's book of the same name, suggests that we are entering an era where printed texts become increasingly obsolete, and digital texts increasingly proliferate. Because the implications of this transition has enormous effects on how authors write, readers read, texts circulate, language is analyzed, and ultimately how knowledge gets (re)presented, digital humanists find the late age of print rich for scholarly inquiry.

How Authors Write: Digital Scholarship in the Late Age of Print

-open-access publishing
-peer review
-tenure (maybe seek some institutions that do acknowledge alternative publishing)

It is common for digital humanities scholars to both make the call for and actually publish in strictly digital formats, arguing that such digital production affords ways of knowing and communicating that print-only texts limit. As Martha Nell Smith's argues in "Electronic Scholarly Editing," a chapter from the Blackwell Companion to the Digital Humanities: "to develop digital monographs the most basic question – 'what lines of critical argument are possible only in a digital monograph?' – needs to be posed repeatedly." As complex interfaces, hypertexts, and networked spaces allow scholars to produce and represent knowledge in new and interesting ways. Yet there might be good reasons that the print codex is alive and well. Primarily this comes down to how print is valued in the academy; or rather, how digital texts are devalued.

As Claire Wairck argues in the same edition, "Books are not only convenient, but carry weight with promotion committees, funding councils, and one's peers. Computational techniques, however, continue to improve and academic culture changes, even if slowly. What is not likely to change in the complex dynamics between the two media is the fundamentals of how humanities academics work, and the way that they understand their material. How, then, should we explain the survival of reading printed texts?" She claims that once scholars learn to use the GUI and visual devices to help them think -- not to just reproduce knowledge -- digital texts will really take off. It's an argument other scholars have made about new media.

Man digital humanists have argued that tenure aside, digital texts can be powerful instruments for delivering arguments, where form an content work in symbiosis. Using interface as heuristic, for example, Joanna Drucker uses interface theory to complicate the idea that the space between reader and text (or user/consumer) is not as separate as it's often treated (see video). Drucker argues that the digital interface (and its frames) shift our modalities spatially and temporally to position us differently as subjects in our experience of media (an omniscient subject position with maps, immersive subject positions with video, etc.). Reading within these new interfaces makes for an embodied, ergonomic experience, which creates a constituted subject affected via cognitive processes. While Drucker is discussing new media reading practices generally, her argument about the digital interface can be applied to the codex in ways that change reader participation and experience.

Further reading

Access to Knowledge.” Consumer Project on Technology. 11 Sep. 2011. Web.

[cited by 62] Brown, Laura, Rebecca J Griffiths, and Matthew Rascoff. University Publishing in a Digital Age. New York?: Ithaka, 2007. Web.

Deegan, Marilyn, and Kathryn Sutherland, eds. Text Editing, Print and the Digital World. Farnham, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009. Print.

Hacking the Academy.” Digital Culture Books. 2011. 10 Sep. 2011. Web.

Institute for the Future of the Book.” Institute for the Future of the Book. 2011. 11 Sep. 2011. Web.

Jing, Xianghu, and Huadong Pan, eds. eLearning and Digital Publishing. Dordrecht: Springer, 2006. Print.

Krikorian, Gaëlle, and Amy Kapczynski, eds. Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property. New York : Cambridge, Mass: Zone Books ; Distributed by the MIT Press, 2010. Print.

[cited by 539] Lynch, Clifford A. “Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure For Scholarship In The Digital Age.” portal: Libraries and the Academy. 3.2 (2003): 327-336. 12 Sep. 2011. Web.

McKnight, Sue, ed. Envisioning Future Academic Library Services: Initiatives, Ideas and Challenges. London: Facet, 2010. Print.

Primary Research Group. The Survey of Higher Education Faculty: Use of Digital Repositories and Views on Open Access. New York, N.Y: Primary Research Group, 2009. Print.

[Cited by 62] Thompson, John B. Books in the Digital Age: The Transformation of Academic and Higher Education Publishing in Britain and the United States. Cambridge: Polity, 2005. Print.

Working Together or Apart: Promoting the Next Generation of Digital Scholarship: Report of a Workshop Cosponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Washington, D.C: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2009. 12 Sept. 2001. Web.

How Readers Read: The Future of the Book in the Late Age of Print

A discussion of the future of the book is a complex one, but but as novelist and writer Lev Grossman explained in a recent New York Times article, there are essentially three "devices" to consult when we discuss the history of the book: the scroll, codex, and e-reader. A discussion of the future of the book is obviously bound to discussions of the future of print, but the book presents its own unique challenges and affordances that must be acknowledged. As Ted Striphas argues in The Late Age of Print, books "have become ubiquitous social artifacts ... through which social actors articulate and struggle over specific interests, values, practices, and worldviews." [need a better quote paraphrase to get at how this is separate from other issues in textual studies/digitization; specifically wrt economics]

external image 04grossman-articleLarge.jpg

Although Grossman's definitions of the book are reductive (the personal computer was capable to delivering books more than 30 years ago), he has a point; the ubiquity of the web, development of mobile and e-book devices (such as the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other devices), as well as the proliferation of cheap(er) production tools, has elevated the seriousness of the discussion regarding the future of book. The question extends into multiple disciplines including history, IT, economics, law, philosophy, and library science, and evokes several other questions regarding a model of production and distribution that is at least 400 years old.


eBook discussions start in 1971 -- see Wikipedia entry for a chronology

Voyager -- CDROM

Scholars who have discussed the future of book, first concern themselves with the book's past, grounding discussion within the larger scope media studies. In "The Virtual Codex from Page Space to E-space" (taken from Blackwell's Companion to Digital Literary Studies), Joanna Drucker argues, for example, that "Books of the future depend very much on how we meet the challenge to understand what a book is and has been."

In his introduction to The Late Age of Print, Ted Striphas

In "Material Matters: Aspects of the Past and Futurology of the Book" from the landmark and oft-cited 1996 collection The Future of the Book, Paul Duguid calls out these moves using two typical futurological tropes: supersession ("the ebook will replace the book") and liberation ("information wants to be free"). Supersession appears as a regular pronouncement for the death of the book (by folks like Jeff Gomez) at the expense of more thoughtful considerations of transitions into new media. As a result, Duguid we risk "losing valuable cultural insights gained through old communicative technologies," which were built to "deal with the problems of the sign, of narrative, of linearity, and nonlinearity, of deferral and differance." But because supersession can also bring with it a concern for dystopic techo-future, liberation ideology -- the promise of freedom -- supplements. (To get a flavor for the sort of rhetoric Duguid is describing, see "Scan This Book.")
[Maybe connect Duguid's liberation critique to Creative Commons, open source, and The Access to Knowledge Movement?]

Culturomics, distant reading, and Google Ngrams: (mentioned in TED talk below)

As the Wikipedia for the e-book notes:
An electronic book (also e-book, ebook, electronic book, digital book) is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices.[1] Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as "an electronic version of a printed book,"[2] but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. E-books are usually read on dedicated hardware devices known as e-Readers or e-book devices. Personal computers and some cell phones can also be used to read e-books.

-sales (Amazon):

"In America, the most advanced market, about one-fifth of the largest publishers’ sales are of e-books." (The Economist)

"In the first five months of this year sales of consumer e-books in America overtook those from adult hardback books. Just a year earlier hardbacks had been worth more than three times as much as e-books, according to the Association of American Publishers." (The Economist)

Even the speculative future can be constructed in multimedia, as consulting firm IDEO demonstrated in this advertisement:

Of course, bibliophiles will be bibliophiles:

Further reading

The Unbound Book Conference:

Cope, Bill, and Angus Phillips, eds. The Future of the Book in the Digital Age. Oxford: Chandos Pub, 2006. Print.

[cited by 23] Darnton, Robert. The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future. PublicAffairs, 2010. Print.

[cited by 147] Lynch, Clifford. “The battle to define the future of the book in the digital world.” First Monday; Volume 6, Number 6 - 4 June 2001. (2001). : n. pag.

[cited by 108] Nunberg, Geoffrey. The Future of the Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Print.

[cited by 246] Stefik, Mark. “Shifting the Possible: How Trusted Systems and Digital Property Rights Challenge Us to Rethink Digital Publishing.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal. 12 (1997). : 137. Print.

[cited by 19] Striphas, Theodore G. The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. Print.

Thompson, John B. Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge ; Malden, MA: Polity, 2010. Print.

How Texts Circulate: Access and Copyright in the Late Age of Print

History of IP in the US -- 14 years -- then to 28 to 42 to 56; copyright protection by default

Google Books and copyright -- see "Scan This Book" from the NYT

All fiction from before the year 1900 is in the public domain.

Project Gutenberg, created by ebook pioneer Michael Hart, is a site that offers free digitized books in a variety of formats.

Dailylit, a site trying to bring back serialization through digitization.

Access to Knowledge (A2K)

Academic presses? Parlor, WAC Clearinghouse