Regarding Scott Barman's discussion of e-books, Joe Boling rightly notes that
The problem with e-books is not being able to read them fifteen years from now because the original reading machine will have expired and the original source will not have kept up with new reading machine technology.
It's inevitable that eventually DVD books will go the way of floppy discs (remember those?), eight-track tapes, LP's, 45's and Edison wax cylinders. I've already had some of our old family movies converted from video tape to DVD, and someday I'll have to convert those to some still newer format. But the fact remains that the electronic format is too convenient to ignore, and for some specialty publications an e-book may be the only viable alternative. It just shouldn't be the ONLY alternative.
I would encourage all publishers of e-books to make a print-on-demand version available as well, and to donate both print and electronic copies to several major numismatic and non-numismatic libraries to ensure the long-term survival of the work.
Since he's just published a couple electronic works, I asked Roger Burdette if he'd considered making his books available on something like Lulu.com so people could make hardcopies if they want to. His take is that "the product quality is (in my opinion) low. Also, anything that makes the material dependent on a commercial enterprise is high risk."
Well, there is always the risk that the chosen print-on-demand provider will go out of business someday, but if some hardcopies are produced before that happens then at least the works will still exist in a book format that will likely outlive any given electronic format. The print quality may not be the best, but even a moderate quality physical book has some advantages over an ephemeral electronic version. Ultimately, this is a question for every author to grapple with. I did confirm with Roger however, that every buyer of his electronic books is free to print hardcopies of the files for their own use.
Roger Burdette adds:
One of the key factors is including an ISBN for publications. This allows copies to be located, even if there are only a few in existance. As far as obsolete formats, that is a possibility; however, by using a "generic" format such as PDF and standard media (CD, DVD) that is in wide use, obsolescence is minimized. I'd also recommend depositing archive electronic and paper copies with some long-term institutions such as ANA or ANS or a major university.
Bill Rosenblum of Littleton, CO writes:
I understand where Scott Barman is going in his quest for more E-books (or whatever they are called). I know many
(perhaps most) books and periodicals are now available both in print and "up there somewhere". My son Brian has
been involved with this movement for 10+ years first at the University of Michigan, now at Kansas University.
Technically he's explained it to me but it usually goes well over my head. But I don't think numismatic literature
has to be available in one form in the other. It can be both.
However, I didn't know numismatics needed revitalizing in the first place. Numismatics is changing all the time but the hobby is very strong. I see quite a number of "young people" at shows and I'm guessing more than a few of my customers I "meet" via email are young.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
COULD MORE E-BOOKS REVITALIZE NUMISMATIC HOBBY?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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