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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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    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Whither bookness

    The Kathleen Fitzpatrick article I referred to in my last posting, talks about "the tyranny of the book" (Stallybrass) and "bookness" - her word for what I have called 'book-like'. She notes:
    Stallybrass suggested, almost as an aside, that the book is a production, finally, of the binder. This is a point I’d like to dwell on a bit, as it suggests that the bookness of the book derives less from its material composition — ink-on-paper — than from its organization, the sequenced, bound, and cut leaves... Turning our material focus from print to binding as the source of bookness holds significant implications for scholars working on new, electronic modes of textuality, and in particular, on the future of the book. For if this is the case — that the formal properties of the book that have the greatest impact on our reading experience are derived not from print, but rather from the codex — one might suggest that researchers working on new ways of transforming ink-on-paper to pixels-on-screens may be working on the wrong problem, or at least the wrong aspect of a knottier problem than it has at moments appeared.

    The problem, in other words, may not be one that is material, about the differing properties of bit versus atom, but instead structural, organizational.

    Thus far, I would agree. But Stallybrass went on to suggest that the primary focus is the page - an idea that would seem to suggest that textual scholars (and readers) are left with a series of dis-jointed extracts without discoursive continuity. I have argued (Armstrong, JOLIS, 2008) that the content is the primary element of a book, as opposed to any of its physical (or virtual) properties.

    But what makes something book-like; wherein lies its bookness? It is not a question easily answered, so I am looking for responses here. Please respond with a comment and a view - I'll try and bring them together in a future post.

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