In the words of Clarence Day,
"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
But now something is changing and we continue to call it the book! Howard Holden points out in Turning the Page: Reading in the DEM, the advent of the printing press gave a sense of permanence to "knowledge" and "truth" to books. "Peering into a new millenium we know ... knowledge and books have revolutionized the world over and over ... only recently have books themselves begun to be revolutionized." This exhibit takes a look at aspects of these recent book developments from the perspective of the process, the users, the publishers, and the industry.
In 1971, Michael Hart from the University of Illinois displayed the great books electronically as e-texts. The first e-texts were the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. Shakespeare and the Bible and Koran soon followed. Hart's initiative Project Gutenberg visualizes having 10,000 e-texts by the year 2001 for distribution. Several similar projects of digitizing printed books and materials and making them available electronically have moved forward, such as The Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities, The National Digital Library Project of the Library of Congress, Project Bartleby, and more. This e-text imperative transcends national and linguistic barriers. Over 100 French-language electronic texts, such as novels by Balzac and Proust, and the complete plays of Moliere, August Strindberg's Den Starkare (in Swedish), Sanskrit dictionaries, Lithuanian love poems, and more can be now found in cyberspace. The idea of the creation of a shared electronic library also evolved with the establishment of the Digital Library Federation. The 16 founding institutions include USC, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Stanford, University of Michigan, Columbia, plus the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the New York Public Library. Their efforts were stalled in 1996 and have been proceeding very slowly, being faced with complex issues of technical standards, cataloging, copyright, costs, accuracy, and accessibility
Other developments in the field of electronic books include interactive books on CD-ROM. These books provide text, pictures, sound, graphics, maps, and copies of original documents. Users need a CD-ROM drive to access these books. Some notable producers include Broderbund Software Company, The National Geographic Society, The Bravo Books Library and more. Even textbooks are appearing as electronic books, such as The African American Experience. The possibility to create custom books is also present. Instructors can create their own textbooks from various sources for teaching purposes.
Alongside these electronic and online text developments the idea of a portable book for viewing books and documents has taken shape this year. NuvoMedia's "Rocket eBook," SoftBook Press' "SoftBook" and a low cost reading device "Millenium EBook" are trying to create and spearhead the e-book market. While SoftBook Press is aiming at professional users, NuvoMedia has partnered with Barnes and Noble and Bertelsmann Publishing to approach the consumer market. These books are computerized text readers that take downloaded text from the Internet through online booksellers and translate it into easy-to-read pages. Readers can electronically flip through the book. They look like PalmPilots and are the size of a small book or paperback. These e-books are portable and will be used by people on the move. No PC interface is needed, though the unit can download other documents from the computer as well. A 2 gigabyte hard drive will hold 2000 books.
Looking at the near future, the concept of what we think is a book can be rewritten. But questions remain. Will we be able to replace the decorative books of the past? Will books have the warm feeling of printed books? No one wants to curl up in bed or in front of the fireplace with a laptop computer or e-book. We would be foolish to burn or bury library cards just yet. The number of books online is no more than 20,000. Just 5 to 7 percent of all holdings are in digital form. We really cannot forsake the paper structure and its institutions.
Long Island University is providing a bridge between the University libraries' print collection of books and the world of books and other resources available from around the world. The Long Island University Library System, Horizon, brings together the new LIU online library catalog LIUCAT as well as numerous online databases providing electronic indexes to journal articles and in some cases the actual text of the articles themselves. It is easy to go from LIUCAT to Library Department web pages, which offer virtual collections, providing links to other web sites. For instance, from the Reference Department's Web Page, you can connect to databases including FirstSearch which contains the world's largest and most comprehensive database, WorldCat, consisting of 36 million records and representing 370 languages. From this database you can locate books from around the world. From this same Web page, you can link to a list of electronic books.
This exhibit includes materials from this library and the New York Public Library. The exhibit Books That Shaped America is by the Library of Congress. The exhibit committee would like to thank Dr. Donald Ungarelli, University Dean of Libraries, and library colleagues for the support of this project. Also, a very special thanks to our talented artists Huei-Huey Chen and Aehyun Jeong for their creative art work.
Coordinator: Prof. Manju Prasad-Rao
Prof. Dona McDermott
Prof. Elizabeth Mezick
Artist (Banner): Huei-Huey Chen
Artist: Aehyun Jeong
HTML by Robert Delaney