Listen to Jim: http://www.jimreedbooks.com/mp3/lostinspace.mp3 or read on…
Granddaughter Jessica hands me her brand-new Kindle Fire (later to become Kindle Kindling?) and proudly notes that the first book thereon is Dracula by Bram Stoker. Being the book nerd that I am, I look to the first page for Stoker’s dedication to his friend Hommy-Beg (novelist Hall Caine) and it’s not there! Whoever scanned the novel simply missed the dedication that helps set the stage for the serial details that build the book’s mysterious sense of foreboding.
It’s kind of like tearing out a page before gifting a friend.
My mistrust of hasty reprints begins to build my own sense of foreboding.
Down all the centuries of publishing, each time a new technology kicks in, errors increase.
When librarians began tossing original copies of periodicals once they were microfilmed, we started losing words and image quality. Print columns were truncated unnoticed till it was too late, Illustrations and photographs lost their resolution.
When 15th-century manuscripts were copied by hand, mistakes occurred and were repeated once published in book form.
When Twitter insisted that sentences be squeezed down, depth of thought rang shallow.
When graduate assistants photo-copy or scan a book chapter for re-distribution, a page is inadvertently dropped and seldom noticed till the volume is remaindered or de-acquisitioned.
And so on.
There are advantages to electronic transmission/storage of words and pictures, but there are casualties, too. That’s why I embrace the concept of retaining original works as backup, lest we lose things and fail to realize it.
I also urgently try to keep all those works that will never, ever be placed on the internet or archived: hand-written notes, personal diaries, postcards, century-old love letters, 19th-century invoices, crayoned refrigerator messages, etc. We can scan them into a computer but we cannot reproduce the texture, fragrance, friction sound, signs of ink absorption, envelope mucilage, raised edges of stamps, cracking wax-seal shards, embossed letterheads, oils from skin rubbed against paper during composition, and on and on.
Go forth into the cosmos and reduce the sum total of our knowledge into a flash drive, but at the same time, do me this one big favor: leave room for those of us who are frantically rescuing, adopting, saving and passing forward the three-dimensional relics of our lives, the evidences that we were once a tactile, feeling, emoting and empathizing species who knew how to imagine and dream and postulate, who knew how to say “what if” instead of just “what is.” We are the archivists, the antiquarians, the hoarders, the collectors, the accumulators who want to appreciate the real thing, not just its thousandth virtual—thus ethereal—disembodiment
(c) 2012 A.D. by Jim Reed