3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

November 15, 2007 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on November 15, 2007.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:


Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us




Reading Victor Hugo, per Google & via iPhone


Google now offers its "My Library" feature, a user's online utility for gaining access to, and to some extent organizing, and even for using, all of those famously-digitized texts...

If you go to Google, and sign-in, then click on Books, then look something up, you will see a link for Add To My Library -- now clicking on that link adds the entry to your My Library page, which you thenceforth can view each time you sign-in to Google.

So in my own Google My Library I now find -- any time I'd like to read it, 24/7, from anywhere -- GoogleBook's 1831 edition of "Notre-Dame de Paris"... courtesy of the Bodleian, the Taylorian, and Charles Gosselin Libraire, "oeuvres complètes, cinquième édition, tome deuxième"... It is magical, and magnificent: Paris, the hunchback, the pretty gypsy and her little goat, and,

Google's My Library page is designed to be one-stop-shopping for reading & research: there at one online site, easily bookmarked and accessed, you now have --

-- and also -- note this particularly, for what follows --

Think of My Library on Google as a sort of updated & online digital version of the old Norton Critical Edition series, which since the 1960s (?) has provided literature students with the context surrounding a given Famous Text, at least indicating research pathways & possibilities which a student might pursue.

This time, tho, it's all "live" -- online, out there somewhere in the Internet aether -- and so far more of it is available, now, than ever before; and all far more accessible, within easy reach of any student or general reader -- the Norton editors' research dream come home to roost on the reader's desk, then, and more recently (see below) even just in the palm of her/his hand.


Those are the good parts. There still are a few problems, plus inevitable wish-lists:


A Methodological Note:

So it's still the grand old text,

-- only this time it's being read by a user on a tiny, shiny, silvery iPhone touchscreen, many thousands of miles away from the Ile de la Cité, in a different time zone and in a strange culture. The paradigms are new, but it's still the same text...

The provenance appears to be V.Hugo to the Frères Gosselin, to numerous sellers and resellers in Paris and perhaps elsewhere, finally to a library in Oxford or the New York Public Library or similar, and now via the Google scanners and Apple's little iPhone to me on my Noe Valley San Francisco street-bench...

But is it still the same text, really?

I wonder what Victor Hugo had in mind, for example, when he composed the words he wrote. Poets do craft their words with the reader in mind, also considering the medium and the setting and sometimes even the occasion -- to suit same, or sometimes deliberately not to suit it. And so too with other authors.

But per much recent scholarship it no longer is the author's "text", perhaps... So maybe the occasion & setting & reader & even the writer no longer matter so much. Some have encouraged us to believe that this is so: where better to test this thesis, then -- the alienation in it, the personalization too -- than sitting on a bench on the other side of the planet from the original location, reading the thing in digits, an occasion & setting & medium surely not contemplated by the writer in 1831.

So much has changed, in my user's experience of reading Hugo's text. There is no cardboard & paper "book" any longer, but oh yes there is the original mise en page, of the Gosselins and their editors and layout designers and typesetters and printers: the Google presentation carefully preserves that. I even can read the text in accented ASCII Times Roman French instead or in addition, if I wish. To me there is reassurance in the old 19th century font and layout -- they seem genuine, for an 1831 text, like using "real" sash windows with lead weights, and true-measure timbers -- although to others this might not be important.

The experience of reading is like the legendary layers of the onion, maybe: layers of interceding and interfering delivery - mechanisms -- editors, publishers, printers, paper pages, fonts and layouts and standards, and library classification systems and cataloging hundreds of years of rules and regulations -- all now "peeled back", by the innovations of the digital age.

To be replaced by something better... Or that last is, perhaps, "the rub" in the whole digital question: authors and readers may be communicating more directly, now, across the spaces and the ages -- I see the same fonts Hugo himself saw in early editions of his work, now thanks to GoogleBooks easily and inexpensively. As recently as the 1960s this would not have been available to a student not enrolled in a fancy school with privileged access to a Famous Text. So there has been some democratization, here.

At the same time, though, come new restrictions: the new tools are not always cheap -- iPhones can cost over US$500, and their connection fees can run US$75 per month and more -- and there are new bottlenecks and access ethics, as the BnF président points out, and as US politicians recently have been grappling at with the CEO of Yahoo -- and preservation of the old paper texts is not yet a sure thing, anywhere. So we may, yet, have to reinvent wheels in a number of vital areas -- may suffer the repetition of historical mistakes, for our failure to have studied the history -- the digital innovations may not spare us all that.


But we're certainly trying, at least: our 21st century Globalization's vaunted "market capitalism" machine is hard at work, now, extending the reach of the new "handheld" platform for All Things Digital -- in several proprietary guises -- iPhones,

-- and in other formats, seemingly less-proprietary but not always so -- "open systems" having a spotty record for remaining "open", in digital information history -- better called "competitive-response" then, maybe --

-- plus see also (featuring Google's Sergey Brin!),

-- altho cf., too,

-- with the latest and I personally believe the best thinking being, in this new "handheld" platform market competition,

-- a.k.a., "Many small fish, very large pond". The *handheld*, iPhone & other, may be the new digital information "platform". But the big news really is its globalization, as inexpensive versions increasingly turn up everywhere on the planet.

Because now digital information is hitting Nigeria, too: per the following from no less than "Xinhuanet" -- not a story or source which the pre-digital 1960s world ever could have imagined --

-- and as Nigeria goes so goes Senegal, and Tamil Nadu, and Sinkiang, too...

At this very moment, then, if the business news sites are to be believed anyway, Nokia & Siemens/Sony & Vodafone & Palm/Treo & RIM/Blackberry and many others are dumping enormous numbers of cellphones onto the former-Third World, in a soaring global race for position in the new handheld "platform" digital information market... Apple has just a small part in the high-end of that race, so far, as so perhaps does Google with its "Android".

There are a lot more users in that Third World than there are in Worlds #1&2 combined, or in any other global population configuration. Thank goodness at least Xinhuanet, itself Third World or formerly-so, is aware of this and is paying attention.

So, "information overload"? We ain't seen nothing yet. Good luck with the "datamining" when those data quantities begin rolling in.


> Sent from my iPhone

-- via gmail, I think, or maybe it was unix or some clone or client, I forget. Those things all are starting to look alike...

But at least the inimitable Victor Hugo still looks like, and *only* like -- "Ceci tuera cela"... -- Victor Hugo.






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Document maintained by: Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us
Last update: November 15, 2007