Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Paper Without Books

From Libraries of the Future (1965):

As a medium for the display of information, the printed page is superb. It affords enough resolution to meet the eye's demand. It presents enough information to occupy the reader for a convenient quantum of time. It offers great flexibility of font and format. It lets the reader control the mode and rate of inspection. It is small, light, movable, cuttable, clippable, pastable, replicable, disposable, and inexpensive. Those positive attributes all relate, as indicated, to the display function. The tallies that could be made for the storage, organization, and retrieval functions are less favorable.

When printed pages are bound together to make books or journals, many of the display features of the individual pages are diminished or destroyed. Books are bulky and heavy. They contain much more information than the reader can apprehend at any given moment, and the excess often hides the part he wants to see. Books are too
expensive for universal private ownership, and they circulate too slowly to permit the development of an efficient public utility. Thus, except for use in consecutive reading — which is not the modal application in the domain of our study — books are not very good display devices. In fulfilling the storage function, they are only fair. With respect to retrievability they are poor. And when it comes to organizing the body of knowledge, or even to indexing and abstracting it, books by themselves make no active contribution at all.

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