To continue the discussion begun by our consideration of Ken Auletta’s Googled, we move to another recent work. Robert Darnton, who has opted out of the Google Book Settlement for Harvard, has faith that we can do better in terms of providing digital access. His The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future presents his vision and recommendations. As he asserts in a recent article for Publisher’s Weekly:
Today, however, we have the means to make that utopia a reality. In many societies, despite enormous inequalities, ordinary people not only read but have access to a huge quantity of reading matter through the Internet. I would not minimize the digital divide, which separates the computerized world from the rest, nor would I underestimate the importance of traditional books. But the future is digital. And I believe that if we can resolve the current challenges facing books in ways that favor ordinary citizens, we can create a digital republic of letters. Much of my book is devoted to this premise and can be summarized in two words: digitize and democratize.
Because versions of the chapters in Darnton’s The Case for Books have appeared elsewhere, those who do not have a copy of his book might find the following list of sources helpful. (The first two chapters are most recent).
Chapter One comes from “Google & the Future of Books” that appeared in The New York Review of Books, (February 12, 2009).
Chapter Two comes from “The Library in the New Age,” New York Review of Books, (June 12, 2008).
Chapter Four comes from “Lost and Found in Cyberspace,” Chronicle of Higher Education ( March 12, 1999).
Chapter Five comes from “The New Age of the Book,” New York Review of Books, (March 18, 1999).
Chapter Eight comes from “The Great Book Massacre,” New York Review of Books, (April 26, 2001).
Chapter Nine comes from “The Heresies of Bibliography,” New York Review of Books, (May 29, 2003).
Chapter Ten comes from “Extraordinary Commonplaces,” New York Review of Books, (December 21, 2000).
Chapter Eleven comes from “What Is the History of the Books? (widely reprinted), Daedalus (summer 1982): 65-83.
Darnton has been interviewed by a number of sources about this book. Rebecca Rego Barry” “Google v. Gutenberg: Robert Darnton’s new book on old books and e-books” appears in Fine Books & Collecting.