Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Best Longterm Backup for E-Books? Would You Believe Tree-Books?

The best longterm backup for e-books might very well turn out to be old fashioned tree-books.  That's exactly what the folks running the Internet Archive project believe, anyway.  And, they just might be right.

From Wired.com, come the interesting details:
...a number of reasons for wanting to preserve physical copies of works that are being digitized; for instance, a dispute could arise about the fidelity of the digital version, and only access to a copy of the original would resolve it. Kahle also told Kevin Kelly that we’ll eventually want to rescan these books at an even higher DPI, so the digital copies will be waiting when we do.

Another reason for keeping a physical copy, and one that Kahle doesn’t mention, is that the problem of long-term digital storage still isn’t completely solved. The cloud as a large-scale storage medium has only recently emerged, and it’s definitely not perfect as a long-term archival medium.
Realistically, Kahle and Co. expect to preserve 10 million books, out of an estimated 100 million published. These will be packed into climate-controlled storage containers, and stored in a facility in Richmond, CA that opens this month.
I've often wondered about the longterm integrity of e-books being sold today.  Think about it.  We have all been around long enough to see numerous hardware changes that make old media systems unusable.  Remember 8-track tapes, beta video tapes, cassette tapes, 78 rpm records, LPs, etc?  One only has to look at the fact that, even today, all e-books are not readable on all e-book readers.  What happens when the market kills off a few of the readers?  Are you prepared to repurchase e-books that are readable on the winning hardware if you are not lucky enough to bet correctly on which company will ultimately win out?

Tree-books rule.  They will still be with me when all the e-readers in the world have been fried by some catastrophic event caused by Mother Nature or her idiot sons, Man.

Please read the whole article at Wired.com.


  1. There is some ability to change e-book file formats (I just changed an html e-book into EPUB, because I was unwilling to get the other available format, PDF, because PDFs look terrible at the font size I'm comfortable reading), but there are limits to what can be done, and sometimes the results take a LOT of editing in order to be readable. Your post is part of the reason why I find all the "print books will be going away" statements to be worrisome.

  2. "Tree-books rule. They will still be with me when all the e-readers in the world have been fried by some catastrophic event caused by Mother Nature or her idiot sons, Man."
    Truer words have never been spoken!
    The part about the storage facility reminds me of the seed storage vault near the North Pole.
    I guess, sometimes, we have to save ourselves from ourselves.

  3. Tree books will always be the best! E-books are a cool innovation but will never be able to replace the real thing!

  4. I've fooled around with converting between the various e-book formats, too, Library Girl, but it's so much trouble - and the results so inconsistent - that I don't do it much. The way that files can be "edited" does make me wonder if an original book could eventually be so corrupted that no one remembers what the original really said...lot's of room for political mischief there.

    I find it almost impossible to visualize a world in which no physical books are produced...just does not make sense to me at all.

  5. I think this is one of those cases, Kathy...we are in such a rush to use all the new technology available to us that we don't stop to think it all the way through before jumping off the cliff. I love new gadgets more than the average guy, I suspect, but this e-book thing is starting to make me nervous.

  6. Never in a million years, Andy...totally agree with you.

  7. Nice, thoughtful post. If I might serve as devil's advocate a moment--and consider business--you mention 8-tracks and betas and LPs. What's fascinating there is that in every case, music labels have profited from reselling content to consumers ever five years or so. People first bought the Beatles on vinyl, then had to buy cassettes during the 80s, then CDs in the 90s, and now we have to buy mp3s to play using iTunes...

    What's funny is that publishers have resisted this by concentrating on books rather than stories and then lamenting the decline of sales. It's like music labels trying to cling to cassettes while the public is moving on to iPods.

    One would think they'd have realized long ago that they could sell books as PDFs five years ago, and then would hope to resell the same books as ePubs now.

    That's all pretty cynical, I know.

    On the other hand, the difference is that books are the only medium that exist alone. With music and movies, one requires something to play the content. Even an LP requires a specialized device. You can't just buy a Beatles LP and listen to it; you also have to buy the electronic equipment to play it.

    Not so with a book. A book exists alone.

    I don't think we're going to see winners like with VHS and Betamax, though. I think Apple versus Google and Kindle versus nook are creating a market where there are generally at least two big competitors with some smaller companies also running.

  8. I seen to lose a few songs from my iPod every year. I've even lost a few audio books. I don't know where all of my books are, but I do know they are in the house somewhere.

    My big objection to eBooks is still that you don't really own them. Until you have the ability to sell something, you don't own it. All you can ever do is rent an eBook.

  9. Will, I'm glad that publishers didn't pull that scam you reminded me of from the music labels. I did literally buy the same music three or four times in many cases because of the way the labels manipulated the hardware. The result? Later, when I could get free music from those same labels, via trades, etc., I felt no guilt about grabbing it. I figure we are even.

    Take a look at C.B.'s comments, above this post, and you will find other objections I have, mainly that electronic files just seem to disappear if not very carefully archived someplace. Every time I change hard drives or get a new computer or mac, I loose something. It never fails...even though I know it's my fault.

  10. I totally agree with you on all points you made, C.B. Anything I can't literally trade or sell doesn't really belong to me, does it? That's just creepy...