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Aaron Kaufman

International Book Collector Says the Book digitization is the future

Students, faculty and book lovers alike packed into the Library’s Special Collections Room eagerly awaiting the verdict on the future of the printed book, and the news wasn’t promising.

Robert Jackson, an international authority on the art of collecting and whose focus is collecting rare books and original manuscripts, suggested in his hour-long speech last night that printed books are being replaced by digitized versions, and the future of the library is in jeopardy as a result. The Special Collections Room is located on the 10th floor and is used for special presentations.

“Information technology giveth, and information technology taketh away,” Jackson said.

Jackson said while the benefits of digitization include increased availability of resources to a greater number of people, it requires the concession of the “preservation of the author’s personality.”

He described an impending scenario where books will be available to print in full at an ATM style device, which will translate the text into the recipient’s native language. Jackson believes this will rob books of all personality, and will lead to the “loss of books as a physical object.” Jackson maintains that Random House Publishing is currently working on the device, and predicts it will be available in the near future.

While Jackson said he expects some form of the printed book to always exist, especially in the children’s book genre, he is not as optimistic for the future of the library. He noticed students studying printed textbooks in the Kent State Library, which he noted as an anomaly when compared to most universities he speaks at, where students seem to be more focused on the “technological aspect” of research.

While Jackson said he appreciates the augmented ease of research with search engines, and admits to using Google himself, Jackson believes much of what is critical to good research is lost when the original manuscript is not studied.

“An original manuscript is a remarkable thing,” Jackson said. “It holds the author’s blood, sweat and tears, not only metaphorically, but sometimes physically as well. Pages can be very discerning.”

“I hate reading on a computer,” said Sanford Marovitz, a retired English professor, during a question and answer session following the speech. “To have the book in hand, even an inexpensive paperback, you can mark it and make it your own.”

Many in attendance, whose educational experiences preceded the Microsoft Word revolution, shared his sentiments.

Jackson went on to discuss the art of collecting, and described it as a dying art because of economic and social circumstances. He has spoken more than 300 times at numerous venues, including universities across the country, the Library of Congress and the White House.

Contact Library and Media Services Reporter Aaron Kaufman at [email protected].