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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How could this be interesting?
Buy this book today and save the world. Nicholson Baker turns a subject which sounds as if it is going to be desperately boring into a page turner. The subject is the US obsession with microfilm and digitisation of printed data where perfectly good printed material is being destroyed for poorer quality media in the name of progress. Baker found out that archives were...
Published on 20 Mar. 2003 by M. S. Fawcett

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
Baker's work is certainly an informative and well-researched piece of work. As a librarian I have mixed feelings towards his central argument. I sympathise with his assessment of microfilm as a poor (and expensive) substitute for paper, however, his alternative of keeping everything in its original form, never weeding collections or getting rid of books is seriously...
Published 22 months ago by LibraPhile


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How could this be interesting?, 20 Mar. 2003
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M. S. Fawcett "mfcufc" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Buy this book today and save the world. Nicholson Baker turns a subject which sounds as if it is going to be desperately boring into a page turner. The subject is the US obsession with microfilm and digitisation of printed data where perfectly good printed material is being destroyed for poorer quality media in the name of progress. Baker found out that archives were being destroyed and being replaced by microfilm that was deteriorating more quickly and terminally than the original media. The book includes interviews with some of the villains, it tells of the experiments and misapplied results and discusses some of the technicalities of bookmaking. He then sets about trying to resolve the problem - personally. Anyone who reads books should buy this.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous and excellent, 23 Mar. 2002
By A Customer
Anyone who reads books that are more than, say, fifty years old will be familiar with the claim that they are "brittle" - which is to say, they are prone to disintegration. In the second half of last century, a large number of philistines and governmental agitators - principally in the US - decided that the solution to this perceived problem lay in microfilming all their old books. Anyone who has worked with microfilm will know what an unsatisfactory alternative to a real hard copy it is. Worse still, the best way to make a microfilm involves destroying the original.
Nicholson Baker's meticulously researched, passionate, faintly paranoid jeremiad on the subject of microfilm, libraries and the wholesale destruction of printed material is a fable for our times - iluustrating perfectly the way fans of digitization etc. will doctor their statistics to support their claims. You emerge from Baker's entertaining, detailed rant with the distinct suspicion that librarians are a tribe of vandals and governments will do anything so long as it promises to trim their budget. Frightening.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Victor Meldrew returns!, 1 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
Here's one for all of us gullible folk who have been sold the dream that a computer is going to be the answer to all our prayers. Hah! Most of us who have sacrificed manual systems at work and transfered over to automated computer systems know this to be one of life's great disappointments, as the reality is usually more nightmarish than dreamlike. In this book Baker embarks upon a Victor Meldrew-like rant against the age of computers and the hidden forces which drive them into every corner of our lives. In fact he takes it one step further by identifying these forces in the form of the CIA! The vehicle Baker chooses to use to demonstrate the sinister impact and influence of computers is the library. This is a subject close to his heart as those of you who know of his intervention in the British Library's newspaper division will be aware - (when he spent £100,000 buying newspapers from them which were about to be burned). This book reminded me of the poem "The Horses", which I read at school about 20 years ago. Then, the most immediate threat to our way of life was the threat of nuclear warfare. If Baker's viewpoint is to be believed we are now at much greater peril from the PC Age. If you buy this book I advise you to save it for a Friday evening, when you've returned home from work, tired and frustrated, having spent most of your week "on hold" to some annonymous IT help desk. If nothing else, it will make you realise you are not alone in your frustration and disillusionment as well as your desire to return to the safety and reliability of the "old ways".
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, 9 May 2013
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Baker's work is certainly an informative and well-researched piece of work. As a librarian I have mixed feelings towards his central argument. I sympathise with his assessment of microfilm as a poor (and expensive) substitute for paper, however, his alternative of keeping everything in its original form, never weeding collections or getting rid of books is seriously impractical for the majority of libraries. His arguments might stand for national libraries and 'libraries of last resort' but including also university and research libraries undermines his point - his vision for libraries, to me, seems like vast cavernous spaces filled with unused, out-of-date even archaic texts, of use only to history researchers - the ultimate keep everything "just-in-case" approach.
Baker's solution of off-site storage is rather naive, yes the costs of off-site storage may be lower than microfilming but does not appear to take into account on-costs of the perpetual storage he advocates; staffing, security, insurance, rent increases, maintainance, transport. Digitisation of texts is expensive but costs are almost exclusively front-loaded with low maintainance. In a time of ever-diminishing budgets, outlays for vast warehouses of little-accessed texts "just-in-case" is a poor use of funds, the first response of unsympathetic higher-ups would be to close them and pulp the texts, losing everything without backup.
Microfilm may not have proved a panacea for the problems libraries face, but I feel Baker is somewhat unfair on those who had hope in progress.
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Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper
Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker (Paperback - April 2002)
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