Ever since man has known to write he has put his knowledge in some form to preserve it. The cave men chiseled out the story on rocks. Writing may have begun, according to Wikipedia, as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures. Early writing done on clay tablets were pictographs, a picture used to symbolize a word or a phrase. In 4 BC writing became a method of recording and preserving transactions.

Stone tablets, clay tablets, wax tablets, vellum, parchment, copperplate, paper; just some of the means used to transmit information.

The trouble is that they don’t last. Time and weather wear them out. And new technology makes them obsolete.

We are seeing that today in the transportation of books that are bound, into pixels stored on discs and CDs and Google Book Search. Even that is going to pass. Look what is happening to the microfiche we used in the past to store copies for future generations.

Author Robert Darnton points out that even the original manuscripts of what we have today of a great like Shakespeare is questionable. Just what is his and what was added by publishers throughout the years? Some editions of his plays add or subtract lines, or even add or leave out certain works.

Are books on the way out? By books I mean the ones you can hold in your hand and devour word by word. Or have books as we know them been replaced by technology?

That is a question that interested me being a book reviewer and a devoted reader. It should also interest the reader of this review because they might purchase a Kindle or an iPad or even a Nook. Any one of these e-readers must have a source of literature to draw from. Who is going to determine the accuracy of what they get and the permanence?

What is also important is the security of our research libraries. Are they going to become places covered with dust or will they move with the times and become learning centers? That is just one of the issues Darnton writes about in his essays. These 11 essays collected in one place were written over time for “The New York Review of Books” as well as “Daedalus.” It is sectioned into three parts; future, present and past. Chapter nine titled “The Importance of Being Bibliographical” is recommended.

“Why is bibliography important? It is more than a list of titles, what use is it? The question has acquired new pertinence now that tests have become more available and less trustworthy, thanks to the Internet. Students usually download tests from computers without asking where they came from, and they frequently get garbage.”

That is something to consider.

Keep reading. Contact me at smdp_review@yahoo.com.

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