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Old 04-12-2009, 06:11 AM   #1
Over
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eBooks: a danger to posterity?

Except certain technical and reference books, I noticed how paper books are being replaced by electronic books in my life. Most of my leisure reading material are ebooks.

Months ago I've read The Stand, by Stephen King. And a thought occurred to me: what if ebooks will replace completely the pbooks? What if for some reason, in a post apocalyptic scenario, we can't produce electricity and recharge our computers and ereaders?

Do we loose all books? If an alien race visited our extinct world 2000 years from now... Won't they find any written material about us past a certain date? Will the year we enter in a full ebook format society be known as... The dark age? If I do a trip to a place without electricity, will that equate to no reading possibility?
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:15 AM   #2
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A vaguely similar thought occured to me some time ago: how will biographers of the future write about people of today? A vital source for biographers of the past has been the letters that people wrote. Today, it's all e-mail, and who keeps e-mail?
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:26 AM   #3
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.. A vital source for biographers of the past has been the letters that people wrote. Today, it's all e-mail, and who keeps e-mail?
MI5

"The UK Government - for all your archiving requirements."
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:24 AM   #4
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Me!

I've got pretty much every email I've sent or received since late 1991.


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Today, it's all e-mail, and who keeps e-mail?
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:25 AM   #5
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Me!

I've got pretty much every email I've sent or received since late 1991.

There's no hope for me. I can't find emails from last week
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:25 AM   #6
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I'm impressed!
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Over View Post
Months ago I've read The Stand, by Stephen King. And a thought occurred to me: what if ebooks will replace completely the pbooks? What if for some reason, in a post apocalyptic scenario, we can't produce electricity and recharge our computers and ereaders?

Do we loose all books? If an alien race visited our extinct world 2000 years from now... Won't they find any written material about us past a certain date? Will the year we enter in a full ebook format society be known as... The dark age? If I do a trip to a place without electricity, will that equate to no reading possibility?
Well, in "The Stand" they did get the electricity up and running again. I have a Solio solar charger which works with my Kindle, iPod Touch and cell phone, so I'm good.

Digital books are still tied to a physical object (computer, ebook reader, CDs, whatever else comes along), so I think there will still be an ability to access them.

Now, if we start "reading" books via direct to brain transfer, all bets are off.
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Old 04-12-2009, 10:42 AM   #8
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It can be a real problem, though. Eg, in the early 1980s, the BBC had a massive project to create a "snapshot" of comtemporary British life - pictures, video, etc. The end result was produced as a laserdisc controlled by a special version of the "BBC Micro" personal computer of the day. It was intended to be used as a long-term research tool. Now, a mere 25 years later, it's pretty much useless because the hardware to play it no longer exists.
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:11 PM   #9
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Me!

I've got pretty much every email I've sent or received since late 1991.
Wow... I only go back to about 05 for personal. And at work I started archiving everthing about 3-4 years ago. Usually need to go back for the work ones much more.

BOb
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:12 PM   #10
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There's no hope for me. I can't find emails from last week
Heh heh... well... have a good email search system really helps. If you are using google mail, it is awesome. If you are using outlook check for lookout. MS bought it and killed it... but you can still find it and use it, even with Outlook 2007.

BOb
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:18 PM   #11
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It can be a real problem, though. Eg, in the early 1980s, the BBC had a massive project to create a "snapshot" of comtemporary British life - pictures, video, etc. The end result was produced as a laserdisc controlled by a special version of the "BBC Micro" personal computer of the day. It was intended to be used as a long-term research tool. Now, a mere 25 years later, it's pretty much useless because the hardware to play it no longer exists.
They don't have one "BBC Micro" alive that will run long enough to transfer the disk info or software that will read it?
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:29 PM   #12
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They don't have one "BBC Micro" alive that will run long enough to transfer the disk info or software that will read it?
Looks like there is - http://acorn.chriswhy.co.uk/Computers/Domesday.html

Copyright may be more of a threat than the technical issues -http://www.si.umich.edu/CAMILEON/domesday/ipr.html

Last edited by Sparrow; 04-12-2009 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 04-12-2009, 01:36 PM   #13
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It's even worse - the paper used nowadays is not very robust - in older days stone or parchment (or more stable paper) - which could last centuries. Even the paper used in our days will only last 10-100 years - and thats not long. Though: not only our digital data, also the analog is going down. Our houses are not build as strong as the fortresses from older days - and who is nowadays throwing corpses and treasures into swamps?
At least plastic seems to be robust

And .. well - to the BBC: It should be known that "data archiving" is not finished with backuping it once - the backups have to be checked, copied and reformatted every 1-5 years ... (It's not done with ensuring that you can read the media - who could read '88s data format? Which is why some special (open-)formats (e.g. special pdf types) are used for long-term archives).
OTOH: no worries, most governments use some kind of long-term archives (e.g. in old salt mines, saving data on microfilm or (not joking) graved into copper plates).
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Old 04-12-2009, 02:49 PM   #14
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Yep, as tirsales says, most governments have digital archive standards. Most libraries, archives and museums also have agreed national and international standards. These cover a wide variety of different types of media and source material such as websites, photographs, oral history transcripts, email, books, and documents.

The standards take into account changing technology. Often important material is printed on archival quality paper and stored in more traditional storage facilities. I seem to remember there was a project in the UK to preserve email, but I haven't been able to find it.

If you want some basic archiving tips for your digital material the Library of Congress has a help sheet:

http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/y...lmemories.html
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Old 04-12-2009, 03:17 PM   #15
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Found it. On one day in May 2007 the British Library and Microsoft aimed to create a national email archive by asking Hotmail users to submit a copy of their email to the project. It sounds interesting and I would love to know what the outcome was.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/a...ons/article.do
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