Baker Meets Manoff
In the debate between Baker's "anti-surrogate" point of view and Manoff's, one very important issue is mentioned in both Baker's review of the Kindle 2 (page 5 of a printed version) and Manoff's discussion of the symbolic value of libraries in the modern era (page 6 of the printout, page 378 of the original journalís print edition). That is the distinction between owning a document and leasing the right to display a digital surrogate of it. All of that discussion of codes was to get you to imagine how complex the mechanics of digital text reproduction really is--and it has to happen every time you attempt to read the text. Worse still, Amazon continues to own the text-in-itself, and can terminate the Kindle's access to it at any time, just as EbscoHost etc. owns the right of access to the print journals that they offer in digital surrogates, and can terminate them in an instant. Or, Amazon could just impose repeated access fees, and EbscoHost could raise (and has raised!) our subscription fees. The costs could become so prohibitive that we would lose access to the entire family of journals represented by that search engine. During the Library's move from the Julia Rogers building to the Athenaeum, one of the most heavily "weeded" sections of the library was its print periodical stacks. Entire runs of important journals, like PMLA, were thrown out, though we had them going back to Volume 1, Number 1. Now we are entirely dependent on EbscoHost for our access, and that access has to be approved by EbscoHost every time you try to read an article. By contrast, print text is produced once, and remains available to the owner unless something actively destroys it. The only problem it presents is safe storage and retrieval, which we will study in the next segment of the course.
Think about this situation like a business owner who wants to maximize profits at EbscoHost or Amazon? You want to increase the number of customers, who will balk (at first) to paying more for a digital text than they would for a print text because digital is "inferior" to print in early C21 cultural usage, as print on paper was "inferior" to hand-written parchment in the C16. Nevertheless, at a certain point--and determining that point is a wonderful problem--you can increase the price of the lease on display rights to a new, much higher level. How can you tell the point at which the price for digital text display rights can be increased, and how can you tell how much you can increase them? The answers to those questions will determine your access to expert or scholarly information in the remainder of this century.