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Internet Archives

Is it my imagination or are there more scanned books available on the internet than before the holidays? I’d seen the movie “Doubt” and was curious about its author, John Patrick Shanley. I Googled, and found a sample of the stage play with its Samuel French cover. This play is still copyrighted, of course, so it was only a sample. I am not sure but I think I could have purchased an electronic version right then and there. Instead, I walked to my local Barnes & Noble and bought a hard copy of the play and sat with it—in my hand—at a café. I suppose if I had a Kindle, the Amazon wireless reading device, I wouldn’t have taken that walk. I’m waiting for the price to come down and the technology to improve before buying one. With the amount of reading and research I do, it makes economic and environmental sense. How long do books last? The paper I mean. Just a few days ago, I pulled out a copy of Nancy Milford’s biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, a book I probably have not looked at in a decade, and as soon as I opened it the brittle pages shredded onto my lap. Then this morning, trolling the internet again, I went through a portal into the University of California at Berkeley library ( my alma mater) and found a memoir by Alphonse Daudet, the French Dickens (1840-1897), fully scanned and available without a fee. I confess I was extremely excited to be able to flip the “pages” with a click on a forward arrow. Legibility was not an issue and even the photograph of M. Daudet was clear.

So what will happen to the books on our shelves or the bookcases that hold them and warm our homes? Or bookstores? Stay tuned.

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