9.500 archiving & the role of the publisher

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 29 Jan 1996 18:55:07 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 500.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Norm Holland <NNH@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu> (55)
Subject: Archiving e-texts

[2] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu> (5)
Subject: eliminate the middleman?

[3] From: "Peter Graham, RUL" (8)
Subject: Re: 9.497 e-texts: the role of publishers

Date: Sun, 28 Jan 96 17:21:47 EST
From: Norm Holland <NNH@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu>
Subject: Archiving e-texts

I've been lurking on the discussion of archiving e-texts in the
age of the Internet, but I've found it of great interest.
Something occurs to me. Most of the discussion, I think, has
proceeded from a print model of archiving. We may be changing to
a different one.

That is, we tend to assume, rather automatically, a print
archive. A text, be it article or book, goes to a repository
like the Library of Congress and stays there _in saecula

This may be unrealistic when applied to e-texts, since, as some
of the discussants have pointed out, e-media change and become
unreadable. For example, my first books on computer exist on 8"
disks for a TRS-80, and even I can no longer call them up.

Unfortunately, this model may no longer be realistic even for
print media. My first books in print are not on acid-free paper
and will presumably have disappeared by the end of the next

The Internet, howver, makes possible a completely different
notion of archiving. Instead of going to one or more
repositories, I can place my books on line. From there, they can
be picked up in e-form by, if I am *very* optimistic, hundreds of
interested readers. They will retain their copy of the e-form,
transforming it as need be when media change. They can provide
copies to anyone who wants for as long as anyone feels these
texts are worth keeping.

In other words, what I am suggesting is that the Internet opens
up the possibility of a very fluid kind of archiving, an
archiving by means of multiplying the text indefinitely. A text
is saved because it is saved by a great many people. Once it
ceases to be of interest, it ceases to be saved. Perhaps it is
archived in a repository at that point, perhaps not.

When I think about this possibility of archiving, it seems to me
to reflect the strange quickening in our sense of time in this
century. We have shifted from an idea that permanence involves
centuries to a permanence of decades. For example, in my field,
literary criticism, one rarely sees an article or book cited that
is more than a decade or two old. What has happened to the
critics who were the giants of my graduate school days? My
students have never even heard of them. Where are the snows of

It may be that the very desirability of an archive has changed.
In the twentieth century, we seem to be dealing with the burden
of the past by jettisoning much of it. Perhaps we have to do
that. After all, was it entirely bad that the library of
Alexandria was destroyed? Think how burdened and slowed
scholarship would be today if we had all that to deal with as
well as what we now have.

In this melancholy vein, it may be that a fluid multi-storer
archiving on the Internet is a new kind of archiving for a new
sense of permanence.
| Norman N. Holland Department of English / P. O. Box 117310 |
| University of Florida Gainesville FL 32611-7310 |
| Tel: (904) 377-0096 Fax: (904) 392-0860 |
| (904) 392-7332 INTERNET: nnh@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu |

Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996 15:08:15 -0500
From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu>
Subject: eliminate the middleman

At the last CETH Summer Seminar, someone observed that when electronic
publishing is discussed, everyone seems to agree that the middleman can be
eliminated. The disagreement is only about who the middleman is. It seems
to me that there's enough work for everyone.


Date: Mon, 29 Jan 96 17:23:21 EST
From: "Peter Graham, RUL" <psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu>
Subject: Re: 9.497 e-texts: the role of publishers

From: Peter Graham, Rutgers University Libraries
Let me assure John Unsworth that I agree with him that "publishers are
desirable participants in the process" and they do things that other agencies
don't. But the"process" we were discussing was not publishing, it was
archiving; and that isn't what publishers do well, nor want to. The classic
division of labor will still obtain. We don't disagree. --pg

Peter Graham psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu Rutgers University Libraries
169 College Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08903 (908)445-5908; fax (908)445-5888