Current technological opportunities for preserving the texts of books, above all the microfilming process, have the unfortunate side effect, Tanselle argues, of destroying the books themselves. This modern form of book-burning is all the more unfortunate insofar as it is being pursued by many who would otherwise consider themselves advocates for books and reading. The principal mistake, which has guided public policy decisions in this process, is to elevate the “text” above the “book” and moreover above the experience of reading, which entails an encounter with a physical object. Such objects, furthermore, carry within them vast fields of historical information that are lost when we concern ourselves solely with the text and, indeed, can even lead to the loss of texts themselves. Despite the mass destruction that has already been carried out, it is not too late for librarians and large professional organizations to voice their concerns and shift attitudes away from the promise of future bookless libraries and a public no longer sensitized to the pleasures and importance of the physical aspects of reading.
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G. Thomas Tanselle; The Latest Forms of Book-Burning. Common Knowledge 1 April 2019; 25 (1-3): 271–277. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7299354
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