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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    e-Books: the rise and fall (and fall)...

    Staying with a musical theme (David Bowie, this time) e-books have been hitting high spots - as witnessed by several recent postings here, and also by one of the many postings from the SLA Conference in Denver: E-Books on Steroids. A resurgence of US interest in e-books was demonstrated by a packed room (“This has been the explosion year for e-books” said one speaker), and Don Hawkins left the sessions with a distinct feeling that e-books were on the rise

    - and the low.

    Meanwhile, in another blog in another city, former New Yorker editor and current Princess Di biographer, Tina Brown was speaking out against Internet marketing, saying...
    that giving away content online is a “mirage,” and that “all it does is feed the hungry angles of journalists and bloggers who plunder it without any of the author’s context or nuance and makes the reader feel there is nothing new to learn from the genuine article when it finally limps on its weary way to a book shop.”
    The writer of the Print is Dead: Books in our Digital Age posting, Oh My God, It’s a Mirage: Tina Brown on free content, thought - unlike Tom Staley (quotation at end) - that it is the author's thoughts and words that are important not the format in which they appear.
    The “genuine article” is the experience; the printed book is, as Seth Godin has said, merely a “souvenir” of that experience. And to imply — just because it’s online — that content is somehow not genuine, and that only things that appear in book shops have legitimacy, is insane.
    Oh yes, the Tom Staley quotation comes from a later, unrelated Print is Dead posting: Tom Staley looks after the literary archives located at the University of Texas at Austin, which he does not intend to digitise.
    He believes, quoting Matthew Arnold, that ‘the object as in itself it really is’ can never be replaced by a digital reproduction. ‘Smell this,’ he told me [New Yorker's D.T. Max] one time when I was in his office, as he picked up a manuscript box from the Edwardian British publisher Cecil Palmer. We inhaled the scent: tobacco, mold, dust. ‘See, there’s information in the smell, too,’ he said.”

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