“books do certain things well and digital technologies do other things well”

There’s a fab article hidden behind the Chronicle of Higher Education paywall:

Some years ago, Terry Belanger found a striking way to reveal the reverence that many citizens of the digital age continue to feel for old books. It is a sentiment he finds fascinating but only rarely appropriate or useful. Belanger, who retired in September as director of an educational institute called Rare Book School but who continues to teach there, brings an old volume to class, speaks about its binding and typography, and then, still discussing the book, rips it in half and tears it into pieces. As his horrified students watch in disbelief, Belanger tosses the shards into a nearby trash can and murmurs, “Bibliography isn’t for sissies.”

The Book Mechanic: A modern sensibility binds Terry Belanger to old, rare volumes, by Andrew Witmer (Chronicle Review 41, December 6, 2009).

(Via Guy, who got it from @roncharles)

Update, 1/31/10: Since the article is now firmly tucked behind its paywall and you can no longer see the context for yourself, I include here the passage from which the title of this post came (as quoted by Kellie M. Walsh):

Eschewing the false opposition between technology and the book, Belanger has brilliantly made the rapid development of new digital technologies one of his leading arguments for the preservation of rare books. . . . He believes that books do certain things well and digital technologies do other things well. The two should coexist without trying to eliminate each other.

If anybody wants to see the whole article, lemme know and I’ll e-mail it.

Photo: Split binding by Spotrick / Steve Thomas; some rights reserved.

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