Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Poverty of Print

From Anthony Grafton, in a New Yorker article about the digitization of libraries:

If you visit the Web site of the Online Computer Library Center and look at its WorldMap, you can see the numbers of books in public and academic systems around the world. Sixty million Britons have a hundred and sixteen million public-library books at their disposal, while more than 1.1 billion Indians have only thirty-six million. Poverty, in other words, is embodied in lack of print as well as in lack of food. The Internet will do much to redress this imbalance, by providing Western books for non-Western readers. What it will do for non-Western books is less clear.

He also includes a 5000-year history of how librarians have tried to organize and circulate an excess of material. It includes a whole paragraph of the early Christian bishop/librarian Eusebius. If that doesn't turn you on, I don't know what will.

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