A PERSONAL STATEMENT: THE ONLY CANONICAL VERSION OF MY BOOKS ARE THE ...January 26, 2016
For several months, I've been intending to make this statement, and now I have more reason to do so, with the following article which was shared by Mr. V.T. It's one of those articles that we see from time to time, from the major media outlets - in this case the BBC - driving the meme that actual printed books are obsolete, they're too costly to print and ship, expensive to store and move, and that Ebooks are so much better. Granted, in this article there's the usual and typical bow to the various studies that are emerging regarding learning effects of reliance on ebooks. So far, the trend has been moderately against ebooks, though studies are inconclusive. Here's the article:
You'll note we have the usual push of the meme that paper books are destined to disappear:
Books themselves, however, likely won’t disappear entirely, at least not anytime soon. Like woodblock printing, hand-processed film and folk weaving, printed pages may assume an artisanal or aesthetic value. Books meant not to be read but to be looked at – art catalogues or coffee table collections – will likely remain in print form for longer as well. “Print will exist, but it will be in a different realm and will appeal to a very limited audience, like poetry does today,” Stein says. “However, the locus of intellectual discourse is going to move away from print.”
And we even have the idea of the "socially interactive" book:
Stein imagines, for example, that future forms of books might be developed not by conventional publishers but by the gaming industry. He also envisions that the distinction between writer and reader will be blurred by a social reading experience in which authors and consumers can digitally interact with each other to discuss any passage, sentence or line. Indeed, his latest project, Social Book, allows members to insert comments directly into digital book texts and is already used by teachers at several high schools and universities to stimulate discussions. “For my grandchildren, the idea that reading is something you do by yourself will seem arcane,” he says. “Why would you want to read by yourself if you can have access to the ideas of others you know and trust, or to the insights of people from all over the world?”
But you'll notice that, like other technologies advocate articles (we'll talk about another one tomorrow), there are certain options and issues that never seem to be mentioned in such articles; there are certain things that are never discussed.
And I've ranted about a few of them before on this website, and it's time to do so again: in their current state, ebooks do not preserve the intention of the author, nor are they citable by specific page number, as the ebook platforms allow the formatting to change. Need a specific page number citation? Not possible. Of course, it is conceivable that one can simply search for a text or phrase, and be led to the specific spot where a scholarly citation is needed. So far, so good.
Bu this formatting issue leads us to precisely what is the main problem(at least, for me): the issue of trust.
Recently, I was made aware of an ebook that was banned - unliterally - by the corporate decision of a large and well-known international internet bookseller. The author of said book - also a well-known author and commentator in the alternative research community - had been informed by said large corporate bookseller and pusher of ebooks, that his book did not meet certain criteria and hence, was banned from sales. The author was simply notified of an action taken, not of an action contemplated, nor was there any real ability to address or dispute the decision. For reasons like this, I have long ago quit using this large bookseller for any of my personal business. Although I had predicted such a move in previous blogs, I did not expect the line to be crosses so quickly, and egregiously. This large international bookseller crossed a line, and a very dangerous one. It is now but a short step to the problems I list below; the moral resistance to taking such a step is now all that much lower...
..., for behavior like this is but a short step to the actual covert modification of a text. Did an author say something "unacceptable" to the powers that be? Then simply omit, or modify, the offending text. Is the author or authoress well-known, and would his or her opinion or endorsement of a product or policy or person further a cause? Just go in an add the requisite text, even though said author or authoress did not in fact ever hold, nor would they ever, endorse such a position or policy. There is, in other words, no check on the text; there is ultimately no way to ensure that a text represents what a person actually wrote or intended. It's much more difficult, and expensive, to create a fake version of a book,, to alter a text. Imagine the boon this would be to those wanting to modify "offending passages" in a religious text; we could at last have a purely feminist Bible, a purely peaceful Mohammed, a purely casteless Hinduism. We could whisk away every troublesome idea, every offending phrase, at the push of a button. We could re-write history, and human memory, at will. Sounds absurd? Yes, but please note that the absurdity was voiced by this large corporation when it banned an ebook from sales on its site for the ideas it contained. The author was not advocating revolution, violence, or anything of the sort. He was questioning a story and its mainstream interpretation.
This is, in short, what never gets mentioned in articles such as the above: the issue of trust. Do you really trust a corporation to safeguard the canonical text of an author, the text that the author wrote and, in many cases, actually formatted so that it would look a certain way on a page, when absolutely no regard is paid to such considerations in the vaunted ebook technologies they're peddling? Do you trust these large corporations to allow you to choose what you want to read when they've already censored one well-known author and banned a title from their offerings?
The article has, indeed, hinted at what is to come, by hinting that printed books will be a specialty item for "a limited audience." In other words, the meme is already subtly being suggested that "real information comes from television and approved ebook sources, not from some printed samizdat circulated in a 'limited community.'"
Don't get me wrong... I'm not a luddite; I'm not totally against ebooks. What I'm against is the assumption that never gets mentioned in these articles: that their corporate masters are to be trusted - at all - because if they're willing to ban a book because its conclusions do not suit their corporate "guidelines," then they're willing to modify a text, omit a text, or add a text,in an author's or authoress's works. That's the rub. Not for nothing is Amazon's toy called "kindle," because it's about burning books, and transfering the author's canonical text and intentions from the author, to the peddler. The intention - with all its dire ramifications - is indicated by the name of the product.
So, for me, the printed text will remain the only authentic version of a text. I will not use, cite, or refer, to any electronic text of any work in my research. And for the record, in case there is still any lingering doubt: the only canonical, authorized text of my works is the published, printed, physical copy of the book. The printed published text of my works is the only version proper for citation of any sort. I don't mind people reading ebooks, pdfs, nooks or crannies, but these are not a canonical or authoritative text of my work, and never will be. Every publisher I have worked with, has always sent me complimentary copies of my works, so that I can look at them, and ensure that what is available is what I intended.
The bottom line, folks, is if you don't trust the governments, banks, or corporations with anything else, why would you trust them with your, or anyone else's ideas and words? In a lawless culture, when the corporate elites are effectively above the law, when their actions reveal their arrogance, would you trust them?
See you on the flip side...