I read about the destruction of the ancient library in Alexandria in elementary school. The idea filled me with such horror and sadness, since I was able to picture what it would be like to have my local library burn down, that it haunts me to this day. The missing scholarship, works we know of by reference in ancient manuscripts; copies of books that now exist only in fragments or as single examples; the collective knowledge of the ancient western world – gone in a day. Ceasar is the likeliest culprit, setting fire to the library to protect his position when cornered by enemies in Cleopatra’s city. I often think about what the aftermath must have been like for the scholars of the city, to have their repository simply wiped out before their eyes.
There are a lot of reasons things get destroyed. War and disaster are two of the biggies, and as we head into a future of virtual books we are in a position to make decisions about what to preserve and what to store virtually. Both assets are vulnerable. The magpie mind of Roger Ebert (through his always bracing twitter feed) alerted me to a great article In The Atlantic by Jared Keller on The Internet Archive, “a non-profit digital library with the Wikipedian mission of universal access to all knowledge,” that has offered free storage and access to digitized music, movies, websites and nearly three million public domain books since 1996. They are now undertaking the mission of storing physical copies of the works they have stored digitally. A delicious conundrum for a worrier like me – which is more vulnerable, to blackout, server destruction, fire, earthquake, tidal wave, tornado. Check out their blog on the dedication of the facility, in Richmond, California.
So, what will we preserve, and how will we preserve it? As we move away from paper (save the world’s forests, access books more economically, expand the ability and methodology of telling stories) and toward digitized books (devices that take energy to run, are not universally accessible and are housed on computers and servers that are vulnerable to the equivalent of the Alexandria Library fire), what choices will we make about preserving our cultural legacy? We could end up like those stunned scholars I’ve imagined, bereft and without the cornerstone of our intellectual world. The choice to have both forms of our cultural output – the real and the virtual – seems wise, and will mirror the practice of the individual, at least for a generation or two. Me? I have tons of paper books and read mainly digital books. I listen to mp3’s but still have vinyl. What’s your lookout?
*Check out this article about the invention of search engines for the enormous repository of information that is the internet. Fascinating, and on the same page as the winsome illustration above.
I’m pleased to be a part of the Blog-A-Licious blog tour (official start for this tour: Saturday, June 11), a mighty and changing grab bag of blogs writing on the same topic each week. Here are two for you to visit: Neil Ostroff’s Always Writing and lovebabz, a member of She Writes, which if you don’t know is a gathering spot for women writers, about to celebrate it’s second anniversary. Others on the list: Kate and Ashley of Back of the Book Reviews and Shelley Workinger’s awesome blog about food in books, But What Are They Eating? Get hopping.
Here are all the Blog-A-Licious Tour Stops!
- Dora – http://peacefrompieces.blogspot.com/
- Kriti – http://kriti-howaboutthis.blogspot.com/
- Sonia Rumzi – http://soniarumzi.com/
- Paula – http://hardlineselfhelp.com/
- Kate & Ashley – http://backofthebookreviews.com/
- Roy – http://royd-spiltmilk.blogspot.com/
- Shaeeza – http://shaeeza.blogspot.com/
- Anna – http://annalwalls.blogspot.com/
- Lisa – http://misclisa.blogspot.com/
- Jessica – http://findingonesway.com/
- Corinne – http://www.everydaygyaan.com/
- Nicole – http://riverarunsthroughit.blogspot.com/
- Tosh – http://totsymae.com/
- Desiree – http://www.desireeholttellsall.com/
- Shelley – http://bookfare.blogspot.com
- Tessa – http://tessadick.blogspot.com
- DK Levick – http://dklevick.wordpress.com/
- La Vonya – http://www.Battered-not-broken.blogspot.com
- Janet – http://jlbcreatives.blogspot.com/
- Jim – http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/
- Linda – http://bookorbust.blogspot.com/
- Sibylla – http://divaluscious.com/category/mad-moms-manifesto/
- Amber – http://wosushi.wordpress.com/
- Lori – http://www.girlparker.typepad.com
- Neil – http://www.neilostroff.blogspot.com
- Tina – https://tinahoggatt.wordpress.com/
- Babz – http://lovebabz.blogspot.com/
- John – http://jmountswritteninblood.com/
- Violet – http://rhiannonpaille.blogspot.com
- Dora – http://blogaliciousblogs.blogspot.com