As historians, we are trained to amass a tremendous amount of print, and to appreciate pages as relics of the historical past. In one of my fall seminars, we discussed whether the new art of digital media and the digitization of archives and books have diminished the historian’s calling, or whether it has merely redefined it–or “modernized” the role.
I admit the tremendous and massive projects across the globe to digitize historical texts, papers, and archives have made my research a bit easier. Instead of spending countless hours looking through dusty boxes
and deciphering difficult handwriting, with a few key terms, I am able to find what I’m searching for in a few hours, or even minutes. The digitization of books and GoogleBooks have lessened my trips to the university library, and made my reading times more productive.
Yet I was once a child who used to take out at least 40 paperbacks from the local library every week. I collect rare books, become giddy when I find a first edition at my local thrift shop, and cherish my ever-growing collection. I spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on books every year and have no regrets about it. All of my books (except of course, my favourite Stephen King novels) are kept in their pristine conditions.
We can argue from both points: digitization saves forests; prints are easier on the eyes; digitization produces new jobs with new sets of skills; prints do not destroy industries. And so forth. I’ve recently stumbled upon the Read the Printed Word an (paradoxically) online pledge to share the love of printed books. The mantra:
We support the printed word in all its forms: newspapers, magazines, and of course books. We think reading on computers or phones or whatever is fine, but it cannot replace the experience of reading words printed on paper. We pledge to continue reading the printed word in the digital era and beyond.
I pledge it. I’m an active member of the digital era, but I’m also that child who used to take out 40 books and carry them all home. I’m also a historian whose is joyous upon finding a rare archival paper in a dusty box in the corner of the library.
If you want to take the pledge, simply click on the hyperlink below and choose your own button to paste on your website. Then spread the word.