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Vegetal and Mineral Memory: The Future of Books

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OneBlueSky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-27-03 09:01 AM
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Vegetal and Mineral Memory: The Future of Books
by Umberto Eco
Al-Ahram Weekly
20-26 November 2003

(snip)

"Good news: books will remain indispensable, not only for literature but for any circumstances in which one needs to read carefully, not only in order to receive information but also to speculate and to reflect about it. To read a computer screen is not the same as to read a book. Think about the process of learning a new computer programme. Usually, the programme is able to display on the screen all the instructions you need. But usually users who want to learn the programme either print the instructions and read them as if they were in book form, or they buy a printed manual. It is possible to conceive of a visual programme that explains very well how to print and bind a book, but in order to get instructions on how to write, or how to use, a computer programme, we need a printed handbook.

"After having spent 12 hours at a computer console, my eyes are like two tennis balls, and I feel the need of sitting down comfortably in an armchair and reading a newspaper, or maybe a good poem. Therefore, I think that computers are diffusing a new form of literacy, but they are incapable of satisfying all the intellectual needs they are stimulating. Please remember that both the Hebrew and the early Arab civilisations were based upon a book and this is not independent of the fact that they were both nomadic civilisations. The Ancient Egyptians could carve their records on stone obelisks: Moses and Muhammad could not. If you want to cross the Red Sea, or to go from the Arabian peninsula to Spain, a scroll is a more practical instrument for recording and transporting the Bible or the Koran than is an obelisk. This is why these two civilisations based upon a book privileged writing over images. But books also have another advantage in respect to computers. Even if printed on modern acid paper, which lasts only 70 years or so, they are more durable than magnetic supports. Moreover, they do not suffer from power shortages and black-outs, and they are more resistant to shocks.

"Up to now, books still represent the most economical, flexible, wash-and-wear way to transport information at a very low cost. Computer communication travels ahead of you; books travel with you and at your speed. If you are shipwrecked on a desert island, where you don't have the option of plugging in a computer, a book is still a valuable instrument. Even if your computer has solar batteries, you cannot easily read it while lying in a hammock. Books are still the best companions for a shipwreck, or for the day after the night before. Books belong to those kinds of instruments that, once invented, have not been further improved because they are already alright, such as the hammer, the knife, spoon or scissors."

- much, much more . . .

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/665/bo3.htm



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