Tuesday, May 09, 2006

O Books, Where Art Thou?

Alex Golub has advocated digital scholarship in the past, but make no mistakes, he loves paper books! Well, that's good. This passage is nice:

"It is easy to see that paper will continue to be used by academics for a long time to come purely on the basis of its utility as an information technology. But we are not passionate about paper because it is a good research tool. We are passionate about it because of the way that it smells and feels. Our love of paper springs from the way it insinuates itself into not only our career, but our souls."

Alas, the problem isn't that academics have forgotten about the joys of books. It's that we're not good at prostelytising for books. At Mall University, our computer labs are packed from 8:00 am until about 9:00 pm. But, when I am exploring the stacks, I am alone. Always. The study booths get some use. But, I never see anyone in the shelves. There's never a line at the checkout table. When we assign less than ten pages of reading a week in our classes, almost nobody ever does it. Even our MA students are convinced that "books are gay".

It is good that academics don't see the digital world and the world of books as being fundamentally at odds. Unfortunately, I think they're wrong.

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