[There was an] answer which Anatole France gave to a philistine who admired his library and then finished with the standard question, “And you have read all these books, Monsier France?” “Not one-tenth of them. I don’t suppose you use your Sevres china every day?”
In sharing this quote, Andy observed (rather poetically I think),
Benjamin’s a good starting point to wonder about the nature of collecting as objects become de-objectified. Building private PDF libraries, for instance, will lack a certain spirit once these libraries are localized on devices that will be able to access any PDF from any library, ever. Why continue to collect? At that point we’ll no longer be collecting so much as rearranging, recommending various combinations of texts for others rather than hoarding for ourselves. The continued ubiquity of playlists.
It’s 2050, and you have amassed a library of some three million PDF documents. Ten years earlier, amid bad management and shareholder uproar, Adobe was forced out of business, and a new format has emerged as the portable document standard. With support for PDFs dwindling each year, where do you turn to access your information? The Format Exchange, built by the visionary Long Now Foundation, is “a central repository and discussion space for file format conversion to aid in knowledge transfer. The goal is to build a community and tool to help allow the information we are all now creating digitally to move into the future.” Brilliant. Update: Scott wrote in to share a few more thoughts on this: “You may want to check out Library of Congress MARC/XML and PDF/A formats. They are great archival digital formats that forward thinking people are working hard at. But note that even though the formats may be accessible, big businesses don’t often implement the standards. […] The latest Wired magazine also displays the exponential decline of our data storages life expectancy. Stone tablets have been found up to 7,000 years old and the CDs we burn last about 5 years.”