“The Library has installed a new, state-of-the-art Espresso Book Machine (EBM), replacing our previous 1.5 beta machine. The EBM can be used to print public domain and copyright-cleared content for classroom or personal use including textbooks, dissertations and theses, journals, conference proceedings, creative writing anthologies, and self-publishing projects.” University of Michigan Library
It never ceases to amaze me that screen reading advocates imagine that the print book as an agent of technical and social advance for last 2000 years will suddenly disappear. When screen reading trends settle down we may have a moment to reflect on the revolutionary recent advances in paper making, printing and on-line print book commerce. Such sectors of print book production literally mapped the terrain for electrophoric screens, screen imaging and ebook commerce. As for mobile reading behaviors, guess where they came from! And screen books have yet to venture across the divide to standardized, persistent, refined device display. Even advances well associated with screen book reading including touch navigation, word searching, remote access and bibliographic utilities are augmenting print as well.
“…the key problem seems to be that information leaches meaning when deprived of context.” Deegan and Sutherland
Five years of engineering and astrophysics and seven minutes of terror as the robotic Mars mission executes an impossible series of micro-second maneuvers. Live variables are everywhere and the vehicle is hundreds of millions of miles away with telemetry delay of fourteen minutes. Everyone is transfixed as screen metrics cascade. They converse in a hybrid language. The orality of the situation is strangely antique. Exchanges are all “nominal” but there is a sense of the nearness of the abyss.
A university credit course can be imagined as a transactional unit similar to a book. Libraries are displacing books as a transaction commodity in context with screen delivered resources and accommodation of digital research. This has been a rapid transition but a whole evolution may be emerging.
What is that whole evolution? Not unlike other historical shifts in culture transmission we find ourselves with a hybrid system. Can such a situation of feral service be stable? Yes, if it is made so. In the library setting this requires implementation of a print book and screen resource interdependence in which both delivery formats flourish.
Looking exactly between the polarities we find a new bibliographic utility. This is the whole-text, online catalog of the library with the physical collections acting in roles of backup, re-mastering and authentication and the screen providing quick, expert access to collection simulations and their associated study forums. We also find another new medium at the intersection that is the instructional laboratory for use of such a composite library. As an extension, the wider university can also offer the commodity of courses in feral learning. Perhaps the university credit course business model is not doomed if there is a feral faculty.