The book as a device
As the Internet Archive has digitized collections and placed them on our computer disks, we have found that the digital versions have more and more in common with physical versions. The computer hard disks, while holding digital data, are still physical objects. As such we archive them as they retire after their 3-5 year lifetime. Similarly, we also archive microfilm, which was a previous generationâ€™s access format. So hard drives are just another physical format that stores information. This connection showed us that physical archiving is still an important function in a digital era.
Recognizing that a book is just another device is important. It’s way too easy to make all sorts of cute analogies and comparisons between books and the digital world, so I’ll avoid it. How our society consumes words and images is bound to shift, but the book will still be here in fifty years.