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Essays

The Arc of Repentance
By Helen W. Mallon
In the wake of a near-affair, a married woman recognizes a long-standing pattern of finding her identity in other people and in her own obsessions. While turning back to God in brokenness brings peace, she realizes that lifelong repentance will bring a new identity.

Virginity
By David McGlynn
The concept of purity isn't one that is held in very high esteem these days. Our spiritual lives and emotions seem to follow our bodies into a netherworld where there is only isolation and the destruction of the self. David McGlynn recounts the story of a brutal crime that led to the loss of a treasured friend, and how that loss has changed his view of the body.

Studies

The Death of the Book
By S. David Mash
Rumors of the demise of printed matter have been wildly exaggerated. In the 1980s, pundits predicted that books would be replaced by computer screens, digital media, even "book-reading robots." In this study, the author examines the e-books phenomenon, seeking a synergy between electronic and traditional publishing.

Fiction

Line of Duty
By Albert Haley

Friday Night in Kizmack
By Carrie Sherman

Nonfiction

On Another Road: Pilgrimage to Fátima
By Charles Edward Brooks

Poetry

The dark
By Luci Shaw

The Woodlands Have a Rank and Moldy Smell
By Susan St. Martin


THE DEATH OF THE BOOK

By S. David Mash

In his 1979 book, The Micro Millennium, Christopher Evans forecasted that due to electronic media, "the 1980s will see the book as we know it, and as our ancestors created and cherished it, begin a slow but steady slide into oblivion. . . . there are a number of reasons this is imminent."{1} Evans's reasons notwithstanding, "the book as we know it" did better than survive the decade--it thrived at unprecedented levels in terms of both publishing volume and sales.

At the end of the 1980s, The Center for the Application of Technology to Biblical and Theological Studies published its forecast that by the end of the 1990s, every college student would be required to own a PC, e-mail would include talking replicas of the individual sending the e-mail in full color 3-D image, and 2040% of white collar workers would operate from intelligent video work centers in their homes. Book-reading robots would be developed and over 90% of the world's extant print media would be in digital form. All magazines would be in video format and very little information would continue to be printed on paper.{2} How did "the book as we know it" fare during that imaginary decade? It thrived in the 1990s just as it thrived in the 1980s: at unprecedented levels in terms of both publishing volume and sales.

The Paperless Scenario

There's a saying that "prediction is difficult, especially of the future." Yet the death-of-the-book-as-we-know-it forecasters ply their trade with confidence. It seems there is no test of the prophet in this business and every few years the terms of the prophecy are retooled to reflect the latest technology. Everyone has a new epiphany and the cycle rolls over once more. With the new millennium before us, we are assured anew that paper-based information delivery is on the verge of total collapse (again) and that full content, high-quality virtual libraries and e-books-a-million sites will spontaneously materialize over the Internet to fill the void. Access will be unencumbered and inexpensive (or free). Soon, we are promised, e-book reading devices costing less than $100 will weigh half a pound and hold one million titles.{3} So "forget paper . . . here come e-books . . . the physical object consisting of bound dead trees in shiny wrapper is headed for the antique heap . . . books are goners."{4} Indeed, the children of students beginning college in the fall of 2000 "are maybe never going to see a book."{5} For a quarter century the prospect of the death of the book has receded on the horizon. Reality can be downright stubborn! Decades of evocative visions have produced an evocative vision industry. But tangible assets making it possible to abate our dependence on paper-based information remain far from realized. Even with the phenomenal growth in size and importance of the Internet and other digital information formats, paper-based information continues to grow unchecked. Through the decade of the 1990s, the period of the rise of the Internet as the latest hope for a digitized future, paper-based information delivery steadily increased at levels exceeding the pre-Internet era. A recent four-year study{6} among nine leading American universities{i} concluded, against prior expectations of study participants, that the end of paper-based information is not on the visible horizon. Reasons include more expense, less user satisfaction, and greater technical complexities associated with managing large digital collections vis-a-vis large paper collections.

The fallacy of the paperless scenario is built on the assumption of an "information pie" of fixed size with the digital slice growing at such a fantastic rate that it overtakes the rest of the pie at a point in time{ii} calculated from the rate of digital-information growth in relation to the present size of the pie. Now if the pie were of fixed size and if the digital slice were the only growing portion, then only an idiot would reject the digitopian imperative. But the pie is not fixed in size and digital information is not the only growing slice. Much to the contrary, the whole pie is rapidly expanding from amazing growth in every slice (including paper) and, even as the twenty-first century dawns, "most of the world's knowledge still resides in print."{iii} Ever since the advent of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s, average annual book title production in the U.S. is 28.6% higher than during the decade preceding the WWW. Unfortunately, the dizzying growth curve of free information on the Internet seems to have an inverse relationship to its academic utility: "While [the Internet] may be adding millions of pages a day, most of them are pet tricks and baby pictures of people you don't know."{iv} Notable exceptions notwithstanding, this has become an Achilles heel to the proposition that today's Internet can realistically substitute for classic library services. Surprises from the metrics of online publishing will also affect the diffusive strength of this medium: "Publishing online was supposed to be cheaper than publishing offline. Alas, it's not."{7} Jerry Colonna is a managing partner at Flatiron Partners, which has funded several Web content sites, including Inside.com and TheStreet.com. Colonna admits "there are all sorts of advantages to being on the Web, but being cheaper isn't one of them. The experiences of the last two years have proven that the real cost of doing business isn't paper or postage."{8} A few Web content providers may have the luxury of being able to ignore balance sheets,{v} but precious few can operate in an environment of price insensitivity for their product.{9}

Stephen King's Blues

The emerging e-book industry is in a similar stew. For instance, huge initial demand for Stephen King's March 2000 e-book, Riding the Bullet, induced unchecked euphoria among e-book advocates.{10} An unprecedented 400,000 downloads occurred in the first twenty-four hours. In July 2000, when King announced his next online release, The Plant, headlines such as "Stephen King Horrifies Booksellers"{11} and "Stephen King Sows Dread in Publishers"{12} peppered Internet news sites, though statements from horrified booksellers and dread-sown publishers were not provided. But Riding the Bullet was given away and King wanted payment for The Plant. In comparison to Bullet, demand for The Plant during the first two days dropped 75%.{13} Headlines changed to "King's 'Plant': Online Sales Wilting"{14} and "King E-Novel Short of Expected Demand."{15} Media attention turned to other things in August, but by July 31 The Plant had been purchased by 93,200 customers.{16} At one dollar per download, King is likely to eventually break even--but just barely; he needs to raise $124,150 to cover his expenses for The Plant.{17} It's no wonder, then, that "for all the ink getting spilled about e-books, almost no one is making money,"{18} and other celebrity authors such as Michael Crichton, John Grisham, and Sue Grafton have no plans to imitate King's experiment.{19} In the words of Dick Brass, VP of Technology Development at Microsoft, "information may want to be free, but authors happen to want to be paid."{20} The final upshot is that though "the media worked hard to turn King's insurgent act into a writers' revolution . . . most writers, unlike King, can't book themselves on the 'Today' show and 'Good Morning America' on the day of their launch."{21} And, unlike King, they can't pay for advance ads in national publications such as Publisher's Weekly and USA Today{22}--most are not phenomenally wealthy and do not have $124,150 to risk.

By way of context, celebrity author J. K. Rowling released a 752-page print title for young readers--sparsely endowed with small black-and-white illustrations--within days of King's online release. Rowling outsold King by 39:1 during the first weekend of availability.{23} Since release, sales have been comparably disproportionate. King and Rowling are each capable of the highest possible draw for whatever medium they select. Their July 2000 releases provide a striking illustration of the continuing mass appeal of print media sans color, even for younger audiences. As noted by Jon Katz, author of Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho, "The idea that the whole world, including books, must go digital is 'Net hysteria' fomented by middle-aged CEOs who don't know how kids live or think."{24}

Prior to release of The Plant, King said to his readers "My friends, we have a chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare."{25} But the real nightmare isn't happening with Big Publishing; it's happening with e-publishing. At .0002% share of the market, "e-book sales are barely a footnote."{26} Only about 25,000 handheld e-book devices have been sold to date and most e-books, like The Plant, are still designed for PC monitors rather than for handheld devices.{27} Writing in Forbes magazine, Peter Kafka observes that "most e-books cost about as much as their printed counterparts, sometimes much more: BarnesandNoble.com sells Stephen King's Bag of Bones in paperback for $6.39 plus shipping--but charges $22.40 for the digital version."{28} The reading device for the paperback is widely available for free (sunlight). This device can be used for other tasks as well. The reading device for the digital version is widely available for about $200 (PC monitor or handheld device) and can also be used for other tasks.

King and Rowling are hardly academic fare. But as a case study, they provide a window on expansive patterns of media use in twenty-first century North America. And there's a message in the numbers for thoughtful people interested in cultural relevance: the book is not dead.

The Book: Alive and Well

Might the paperless vision someday come to pass? Probably not. But if it does, we won't know the day has dawned by listening to what the pundits say. We will know by observing what those with the means to live the vision actually do. The technology/computing section of any bookstore bulges with paper-based information targeted at people with high-end computer capabilities. During the 1990s technology oriented book title production grew by nearly 340%.{29} High-tech industry pundits announce the triumph of bits over books while technology practitioners continue to gorge on paper.

More likely it is time for the pundits to come clean: "Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give" (Proverbs 25:14, NIV). And it is time for our model of electronic information diffusion to change. Let's think outside the box. Current death-of-the-book doctrine is canonized in the horse-and-buggy analogy: as the horse and buggy fared in the wake of the automobile, so paper media will fare in the wake of the Internet. But this analogy is not honest with the data, it is not sensitive to the variety of settings for information use, and it is not responsible in its representation of the social dynamics of information media.{vi} It's not a matter of horse and buggy against the automobile. It is a matter of the automobile with the airplane. Both meet important needs in vital and effective ways in their own right. Neither can replace the other and for one to pretend to be the other is to miss the point; they thrive in tandem. In place of the orthodox predatory diffusion model, a new model of synergy will better carry us to the future.

No library can fulfill its mission without providing full access to the very best in digital information. This exciting and potential-laden medium must be aggressively explored for every benefit it might confer. But no coherent body of evidence exists to suggest that the continuing flood of unique paper-based information relevant to academic life should be any less aggressively explored. In addition to electronic formats, faculty and students must still rely on a well-stocked collection of paper books and periodicals for adequate access to thorough, balanced, credible, in-depth and durable{vii} information.

How will "the book as we know it" fare in the coming decades? It will probably thrive at unprecedented levels in terms of both publishing volume and sales. And so will digital media. No single information format meets every information need. The vitality and utility of paper media will doggedly persist and flourish. And the vitality and utility of digital media will continue to blossom and mature in its own right. Sound academic information policy will account for the promises and pitfalls of every information venue, leveraging each for its best contribution.


S. David Mash is Administrative Dean of Information at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina and is in the Ph.D. program in higher education at the University of South Carolina. He is married and has two sons.

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{1} Christopher Evans, The Micro Millennium (New York: Viking Press, 1979), p. 106.

{2} The Center for the Application of Technology to Biblical and Theological Studies, Technology and the Seminary: The '90s and Beyond (Philadelphia: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990), pp. 35, 36.

{3} Microsoft Corporation, "This Is a Story about the Future of Reading," (Brill's Content, March 2000), pp. 47.

{4} Steven Levy, "It's Time to Turn the Last Page" (Newsweek, January 1, 2000), p. 96.

{5} Susan Moldow, "Publish or Perish" (Newsweek, June 26, 2000), p. 72.

{6} TULIP Final Report (New York: Elsevier Science, 1996). TULIP is an acronym for The University Licensing Program.

{7} Jennifer Greenstein, "The Web Content Conundrum" (The Industry Standard, July 3, 2000), p. 65.

{8} Ibid.

{9} CNET, "Will Stephen King Change the Publishing Industry?" (news.cnet.com, August 3, 2000).

{1} See, e. g., Steve Riggio, "The E-book Is Here" (PC Magazine, July 12, 2000).

{11} Rick Aristotle Munarriz, "Stephen King Horrifies Booksellers," (biz.yahoo. com, July 20, 2000).

{12} David D. Kirkpatrick, "Stephen King Sows Dread in Publishers with His Latest E-Tale" (The New York Times, July 24, 2000).

{13} http://www.msnbc. com/news/440102.asp#BODY.

{14} http://www.msnbc. com/news/437428.asp, (August 3, 2000).

{15} http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech
/00/07/biztech/articles/25king.html, (July 23, 2000).

{16} http://www.stephenking.com/sk1_073100.html, (accessed August 15, 2000).

{17} Associated Press, "King Breaking Even in Web Venture," (http://www. washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/
aponline/20000801/aponline144813_000.htm).

{18} Joseph Menn, "E-Book Publishing: Much Ado about Nothing Much?" Los Angeles Times (July 24, 2000), p. C1.

{19} http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/
nm/20000803/wr/arts_king_dc_7.html, (accessed August 4, 2000).

{20} D.T. Max, "The Electronic Book" (The American Scholar, Summer 2000), p. 21.

{21} Stephen J. Dubner, "What is Stephen King Trying to Prove?" (The New York Times Magazine, August 13, 2000), p. 33.

{22} http://www.stephenking.com/sk1_073100.html, (accessed August 15, 2000).

{23} John Mutter and Jim Milliot, "Harry Potter and the Weekend of Fiery Sales" (PublishersWeekly.com, July 17, 2000), http://www.pub lishersweekly.com/articles/20000717_88081.asp.

{24} Deirdre Donahue, "E-books Have Arrived in Big Publishers' In-boxes" (USA Today, August 30, 2000), p. 6D.

{25} Associated Press, "Web Spinner" (http://abcnews.go.com/sections/
tech/DailyNews/king000724.html, July 24, 2000).

{26} Peter Kafka, "Horror Story" (Forbes, August 21, 2000), p. 133.

{27} Ibid.

{28} Kafka, p. 134.

{29} The Bowker Annual.

{i} Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all campuses of the University of California, The University of Michigan, The University of Tennessee, The University of Washington, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

{ii} The politically correct point in time is "about five to ten years from now." Next year it will be "about five to ten years from now." Five to ten years from now it will be "about five to ten years from now." This is a very useful point in time.

{iii} Robert Berkman, "Internet Searching Is Not Always What It Seems" (The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 28, 2000), p. B9. Berkman is a member of the faculty of the graduate media-studies program at the New School University, and conducts workshops on searching the Internet. He has also served as a faculty member of the New School for Social Research's distance learning program. He is the author of Find It Online! (McGraw Hill) and Find It Fast: How to Uncover Expert Information on Any Subject, now in its fifth edition with HarperPerennial.

{iv} Elizabeth Weise, "One Click Starts the Avalanche," USA Today, 8 August 2000, 3D. With Berkman, Weise acknowledges that "not everything's online and it won't be for a good long while."

{v} See, e. g., Edward J. Valauskas, "Electronic Journals: A Snapshot" (The Bowker Annual, Reed Elsevier, Inc., 2000), p. 185. Valauskas is chief editor of the electronic journal First Monday (http://firstmonday.org).

{vi} Three brilliant expositions of this topic are Charles Jonscher, The Evolution of Wired Life (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999); Albert Borgman, Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium (Chicago: University Press, 1999); John Seely Brown and Paul Dyguid, The Social Life of Information (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2000).

{vii} A study published in Scientific American in March of 1997 estimated the average life span of an Internet URL at forty-four days. In February of 1999, the Journal of the American Society for Information Science reported a study which tracked the life span of 361 randomly chosen URLs. Over a period of one year, 31% became inaccessible. The July 2000 issue of College and Research Libraries contains the results of a study of thirty-one randomly chosen academic journal articles containing sixty-four citations with URLs. After a three-year period, two-thirds of the articles contained citations to inaccessible URLs.

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