Jan 272009

I’ve read a lot about the coming “digital dark age”, when much of the written record produced by our digital society will no longer be readable due to changing data formats, obsolete hardware, or deteriorating media.

But perhaps, just perhaps, the opposite is happening. Material that is worth preserving may in fact be more likely to survive, simply because it’ll exist in so many copies.

For instance, I was recently citing two books in a paper: one by d’Alembert, written in 1743, and another by Mach, from 1883. Is it pretentious to cite books that you cannot find at any library within a 500-mile radius?

Not anymore, thanks, in this case, to Google Books:

Jean Le Rond d’ Alembert: Traité de dynamique
Ernst Mach: Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwickelung

And now, extra copies of these books exist on my server, as I downloaded and I am preserving the PDFs. Others may do the same, and the books may survive so long as computers exist, as copies are being made and reproduced all the time.

Sometimes, it’s really nice to live in the digital world.

 Posted by at 3:51 am