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The future of printed books in the digital age

Legacy Phuket Gazette



The future of printed books in the digital age | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Early in 2003, I took my camera for servicing. While collecting it, I suggested to the old man who ran the shop that my camera would soon be obsolete, and that the future would be digital.
“Oh, film won’t ever be replaced,” he said confidently. He went into a learned explanation of how 35mm film had an assured future, and that digital would take at best a small bite from the bottom end of the market. I was less sure, but had no answer to what he said.

I got my answer later in the year. I read in a newspaper report that Fuji was ending all film manufacture in the European Union, and that falling demand was its reason. By then, I had my first digital camera. Another few years, and the camera that I had paid 50 pounds to service was fetching pennies on Ebay. Today, 35mm film can still be bought, but high street developing shops have been replaced by printing machines with media card inputs. If people are taking more photographs than ever before, an entire technology has gone the way of the steam locomotive and the typewriter.

We live in an age of revolution. Political structures are as yet little affected. But all about them is in flux. It is a revolution driven by technological change. One after another, technologies that evolved in the 20th century, and that seemed, by about 1980, to have reached their fullest development, have been swept away. Vinyl and tape were killed by the CD. This was in turn killed by MP3, and we cannot be sure how long this format will maintain its dominance. Videotape is dead. Fixed line telephony is dying. So too copper wire. Radio and television are trembling on the edge of democratization. Hollywood is being eaten alive by piracy. Emails have replaced letters. Who now buys filing cabinets? In short, the internet and the digital technologies it has enabled are remaking the world in a form we can as yet only dimly perceive.

What, then, about the printed book? Will this survive? Why should it survive? No doubt there are bibliophiles as committed to paper as that old man in the camera shop was to film. “The printed book won’t ever be replaced,” I can hear them say. But why should the printed book be different? No doubt, we shall continue reading – just as we continue taking photographs and listening to music. But is there any reason why the printed book should survive? Let us review the main arguments in favor of print.

First, the printed book is different. To see why, compare it with sound recording. This emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century, and its history has been one of discontinuous leaps. Edison’s phonograph cylinders were an invention of genius. But they took up storage space and were hard to reproduce. They were replaced by the gramophone record. This was transformed by the development of electrical recording, and then reinvented as vinyl, and further transformed by stereophonic recording. By the time compact discs (CDs) came on the market, in the early 1980s, there had not been a single generation of stability for recorded music. If we look at any 20 year period between 1900 and 1980, the best recording quality at the beginning was thought unacceptable at the end; and the reproduction technology was generally obsolete. Newer is better; and few of us regretted the chance, in the late 1980s, to dump our collections of scratched and dust-embedded vinyl into the nearest charity shop.

The printed book is different. It is part of our civilization. In my civilization, indeed, there have been only two discontinuous leaps since the birth of Christ. In the first century, a book was a papyrus roll. Sheets of papyrus, about eighteen inches by twelve, were written on one side and glued together into a strip of not more than twenty feet. The strip was then wound about a wooden spine, and a second spine was

stuck at the outside end. The result was as cheap at the technology allowed, but was defective in itself. Papyrus can last for thousands of years in Egypt, but falls apart after about a hundred years in any damper climate. Also, the rolls were difficult to search through, and they took up storage space.

The book as we know it was not invented by the Christians, but they seem to have made it fashionable – perhaps because they were less culturally committed than the pagans to an inferior technology. Though expensive, parchment lasts longer than papyrus, and books stitched between covers are easier to read and to store. Whatever the case, the book as we know it had triumphed by about the fifth century, and virtually the whole surviving body of ancient literature can be traced back to the recopying choices made by librarians and readers at the end of antiquity.

During the next thousand years, the main change to the book was the replacement of parchment by paper. Then, from about the end of the fifteenth century, hand copying gave way to printing. In terms of intellectual history, this was a greater change than the switch from papyrus rolls. The unlimited reproduction and cheapening of books enabled the Reformation and the Enlightenment, and the emergence of a world of mass-literacy and scientific rationalism.

For us, the printed book is a sacred object. A CD is merely something that must be ripped to MP3 so it can be played on a mobile telephone. An LP vinyl record is an object of curiosity to the young. But anyone who thinks of learning will imagine books. A library is a place of silence and concentration. Readers hunched over their books will frequently be in communion with the finest minds of the ages. The Nazis were evil because they killed people. Before they did that, they burned books. It is the same with the Inquisition and with every other coercive institution. The printed book is special. Anyone who thinks it can become obsolete is surely drunk on a technology that did not exist when most of us were born.

Second, ebooks are inferior. You need electricity to read them. What can you do when the battery runs out? What if our advanced civilization collapses? Printed books work perfectly well with a little daylight or a candle. E-books are inflexible. They cannot be skimmed. If they are made up of text rather than photographed pages, they can be searched, but only if a word or phrase is already known. Often a printed book can be searched by recollection of where in it something was previously seen. A further problem is that printed books go through an elaborate process of proofing. They are faithful to the original text. Ebooks, unless they are released by a mainstream publisher, are often riddled with typing errors. Why give up something that works for something that does not?

Third, nobody can say how long an ebook will last. We have a text of Virgil written while there was still a Senate in Rome, and a text of the Gospels commissioned by Constantine the Great. We have books printed by Caxton in the fifteenth century, and first editions of Shakespeare. Trying to read a book stored on floppy disk takes a prior search on Ebay for obsolete equipment, and may be a worthless attempt, bearing in mind how quickly magnetic impressions fade. Even commercial CDs can lose data within a few years. Hard disks are unreliable. Memory sticks are of unknown stability. In short, anyone who trusts current storage technologies to keep a text readable more than a dozen years is engaging in a continuous act of faith.

These are all valid points. Indeed, I have no answer to the second and third, other than to speak piously about improvements in technology that I cannot clearly imagine. But, rather than try for an answer, I can think of two offsetting arguments.

First, there is the great convenience of ebooks. During the past few

— Sean Gabb

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer



Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.


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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer



Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.


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Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020

The Thaiger & The Nation



Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020 | The Thaiger

Green Day, five-time Grammy Award winners, are embarking on a global tour in 2020, including a stop-over in Bangkok during March. The rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame inductees will perform a series of concerts throughout Europe, UK, North America and Asia.

“Green Day Live in Bangkok” takes place on March 11, 2020 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani. But it’s not their first time. Green Day sold out concerts in their last Thai live gigs in 1996 and 2010.

Formed in 1986 in Berkeley, California, Green Day is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time, with more than 70 million records sold worldwide and 10 billion cumulative online streams of their music and performances. Their 1994 breakout album “Dookie” is widely credited with popularising and reviving mainstream interest in punk rock, catapulting a career-long run of No 1 hit singles.

In 2004, Green Day released the rock opera “American Idiot”, selling more than 7 million copies in the US alone and taking home the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. In 2010, a stage adaptation of “American Idiot” debuted on Broadway to critical and commercial acclaim. Entertainment Weekly called Green Day, “The most influential band of their generation,” while Rolling Stone said, “Green Day have inspired more young bands to start than any act this side of KISS, and that doesn’t seem to be changing.”

Green Day Live in Bangkok 2020 is on March 11, 2020 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

Ticket prices start at 2,000 baht and tickets go on sale on November 2 at all ThaiTicketMajor outlets via or or call: 02 262 3838 for more information.

SOURCE: The Nation

Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020 | News by The Thaiger

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