January 19, 2022

Ebook Anxieties Increase as Publishing Revolution Rolls On

From The Guardian:

It used to be that a book was published, and that was it. Permanent, physical, tangible, it could be referred to for as long as the copy survived. That’s not the case any more. We live in a world where page numbers – if they exist at all – don’t correlate from device to device, where digital text can be updated at the touch of a button, where the ebooks we own can vanish without our say-so. It’s something which is becoming a real issue, particularly for academics.

“I think it is a very grave problem,” says Robert Darnton, scholar, author and Harvard University librarian. “If you’re citing a digital version of a book, often you can’t cite the pages.” He adds that that documents have always been slippery – “there’s no definitive text of King Lear” – but the ease with which it is now possible to make changes to published ebooks means “you take a problem like that, multiply it by 1,000, and that is the world we are in.”

The issue is compounded, he says, “by the fact a lot of digital texts suffer from faulty editing, not to mention the hands of the scanners [appearing on pages]”. He promises that the Digital Public Library of America, which launched last week, will “redo a lot of digitisation and make it right”, as well as build in the capacity to make precise references.


Angus Phillips, director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes, agrees. “They are starting to put page numbers in some ebooks, and you can do percentages, but it is a bit irritating when you want to reference the pages,” he says. “When you’re reading and you want to look back, yes, ebooks have got a great search function, but with a physical book, I can flick back. Put [a term] into a search function, you might get 30 different references.”

Much More in the Complete Article (via The Guardian)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.