A neat essay in The New York Review of Books on Google and the future of bound books:
Until human beings themselves evolve as electronic receivers, readers will select such books as [Moby Dick and the Illiad]–the embodiment of civilizations–as files from the World Wide Web, whence they will be transmitted either to a personal computer and printed out–a cumbersome procedure resulting in a stack of unbound sheets–or, much more satisfactorily, to a nearby machine not much bigger than an ATM which will automatically print, bind, and trim requested titles on demand that are indistinguishable from factory-made books, to be read as books have been read for centuries.
Meanwhile Google, together with the Gutenberg Project and the Open Content Alliance, and similar programs, has turned a new page in the history of civilizations leaving to us the privilege and the burden of carrying the story further. As part of this effort, On Demand Books, a company in which I have an interest, has installed in the World Bank bookstore in Washington, D.C., an experimental version of a machine such as I have just described, one that receives a digital file and automatically prints and binds on demand a library-quality paperback at low cost, within minutes and with minimal human intervention–an ATM for books. A second experimental machine has been sent to the Alexandrina Library in Egypt and will soon be printing books in Arabic. A newer version will be installed later this year or early next year in the New York Public Library.
I've checked out the World Bank bookstore, and it's pretty awesome. I'd forgotten how exciting data compression is. Everyday I stare at a tiny box that contains entire libraries. But a machine that can actually spit the library back at you in its old-fashioned form brings home just how impressive such things are. If you're near one of these book ATMs, go check it out.
Via A&L Daily