After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Another Bookish Aim for the Ages – Digital This Time

Posted on June 14, 2011
Filed Under Technology, The Writing Life | Leave a Comment

It won’t come close to matching the great Royal Library of Alexandria in elegance, and doesn’t care to. But the just-launched Physical Archive of the Internet in Richmond, CA, already has over 300,000 books on hand, well on its way to bettering the 400,000 to 700,000 parchment scrolls that were stored at Alexandria, Egypt in ancient times.

The Physical Archive of the Internet is aiming to digitalize and preserve for long-term storage “one copy of every book, record, and movie we are able to attract or acquire” – 10 million or more items. This is a critical time for launching such an ambitious project, the archive notes, because “books are being thrown away, or sometimes packed away, as digitized versions become more available.”

Think of what a transition we may be in – at least the early stages thereof! Books with paper pages and pressed cardboard covers may be slowly giving way to digital versions. Libraries themselves, at least those with shelves, could be on their way to obsolescence.

These are unsettling thoughts, and should be so to poets or engineers – anyone who values holding printed words on paper in their hands.

Is it any more presumptuous for a digital repository in California than for the great library at Alexandria to think that it can be the ultimate, time-evading storehouse of records or musings that might otherwise be lost?

We’re still capable of great visions and dreams when it comes to acquiring and preserving knowledge. Praise be for that! We wish the digital librarians in California well, but can only wonder what their chances of perpetual storage might actually be. (For the record, the demise of the library at Alexandria is either a mystery or was, according to Plutarch, the responsibility of Julius Caesar, who accidentally burned it down when he set fire to his own ships in the Roman conquest of Egypt.) – Doug Bedell


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