preservation and persistence of the changing book



A test of sustainability, or reliable projection, of a research service is the sustainability of its rationale. Digitizing Special Collections is a research service in search of a sustainable rationale. While findings confirm the enthusiasm for Special Collections digitization the activities are dispersed and users nebulous, and maintenance costs could overtake proliferation and growth. Volatility appears predictable.

A shift in rationale may help. Other management designs have shifted from a goal of sustainability to a premise of resilience or adaptive strategy. Resilience already situates Special Collection digitization as this activity searches for audience engagement, research outcomes, and preservation support only after project release.

Adaptive strategy is perfectly suited to management of digitized Special Collections.
Resilience features continual adjustment and occasional reversal of action in quick response to changing circumstance. Systems ranging from cultural transmission to wildlife ecologies resist sustainable agendas. Such systems are resilient and suited to resilient management and that resilience can be observed and measured.

An emphasis on sustainability and its absence is apparent in a recent report “Appraising our Digital Investment: Sustainability of Digitized Special Collections in ARL Libraries”, 2013. The framing provides both platform and desperation. The platform may echo a methodic accumulation of the source collections that cannot easily be projected into screen display and remote user surveillance. Any desperation may reflect uncertain service use of an integrated physical and digital Special Collections. Ecologies need resilience.


“The verbal and visual cues are manifest inside, outside, and around the text proper, appearing simultaneously with the text and configuring the reading experience in fundamental ways.” Bonnie Mak, How the Page Matters

Consider the Wikipedia and you will find your mind wedged at a paratext of the page layout complete with the headers, hierarchy, link colors and inset frames. In this vision you will see the text as a grey dusting. How obstinate and yet how ready.

Literary studies now recognize a layout of content less immediate to visualization. This is the database with its algorithmic code acting as a “means of shaping the display of text and image.” (Bonnie Mak) Parameters of the less conceivable screen paratext include the window dressing of codex paratext that decoys the massive database and its algorithmic cascades.

As with all issues at FotB, we look exactly between seeming binaries such as paper and screen display layouts. In between we find that paratextual navigation is a cognitive strategy of the bionic reader and that we use such learning constructs with both paper and screen. Take a look at Rough Type for paratext news.

book adventures

A first hand account of the recent history of the book is now printed. This gripping adventure of the codex in the 21st century; A Commonplace Book, can be ordered from Iowa Book Works. Just send a mailing address to iowa.book.works@mchsi.com and you will be billed later $10 plus $3 shipping. Also in stock are the classic mysteries The Future of the Book and Adventures in Book Preservation, nicely produced and ready for you to read also at $10 each.

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