preservation and persistence of the changing book


cognitive prosthesis

Cognitive science is not silent on comparative screen/print reading. The discipline is based in brain functions and constructs of memory, memory encoding and planning activities that characterize human perceptions. Books are a very recent prosthesis of conceptual works encoded to devices and they are specifically refined to augment the busy mind.

An interesting aspect is the extra-bodily nature of books even though they effectively encode conceptual works of the mind. Onto that issue can be added distinctions such as screen or paper display and many other sub-distinctions of these.

Books influence memory and retention, especially in recursive construction of concepts. This can be illustrated with the evolution of language; we do not use a word once. The meaning builds as we use a word again and again. Books actually become especially important in long-term meaning where concepts are relayed across time and cultures.

Here one factor, not quickly disputed, becomes important; screen-reading devices are libraries as they display many books while a print book displays only a single title. Recursive transmission is facilitated with objects such as paper book. They provide an immutable display of a single conceptual work and are authenticated as such. This strange, almost paradoxical, efficiency (extreme DRM if you will!) helps to explain reliance on paper books.

Screen books also present extra-bodily display of conceptual works, but the displays are actually as variable, transient, interrupted and conglomerated as our busy minds. This is why students avoid learning risks presented by screen textbooks.


As we take action we also decide; the future of the book can be deliberately approached. Rationales for action are there as the speed of change also accelerates the march of book history and it is not too soon to examine the history of the electronic book. We also decide to take action in contrast to inaction. Inevitably, we should actively participate in the future of the book debate. We are well positioned to understand the intersection, interplay and possible interdependence of the physical print and virtual screen book. At least, we should witness the destiny of the book emerging now.

counter image

Perhaps each of these images has a counter image with a phone.

fugitive medium

“sustained management and maintenance that would have seen it through successive transitions in the physical media by means of which the texts could have been transmitted. … authorities both east and west lacked the will and means to maintain a great library. An unburned building full of decaying books would not have made a particle’s worth of difference.” From p. 359 in Bagnall, Roger S. 2002. “Alexandria: Library of Dreams”. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 146 (4): 348-362.

extra soma

” Included for the preservation perspective was a fiery noetic performed by Christian Bök who is conducting a experiment called The Xenotext which involves genetically engineering a bacterium that can become an archive for storing a poem in its DNA genome for eternity. Over apochal, near eternity time spans the evidence of a sentient species on this planet, will otherwise disappear. Bök rates documentary mechanism as inadequate beyond 10k years. Yet as Bök admits, his cypher for noetic preservation and genetic archiving is a bizarre ecological mission against the existential threat.” MIT Future of the Book conference

An extra soma DNA encoding now has an authentic archival application and the projected longevity of eternity is fairly attractive. As reported in NYT science, the striking feature is the utilization of DNA chemistry outside the cell or in an extra soma context. This does depart from Bök’s bacterium host. It also provides an eerie metaphor of the out-of-body paper book contrasted with the screen book. The screen book takes on a reflection of the transactions of the mind while the paper book stays beyond transience, distraction and interruption.

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