The other day, Marcy and I were discussing the internet and ebooks, the ways Facebook is opening up entirely new realms of information, the ways we share and interact and communicate. As we were reflecting, she brought up a book that Orange Frazer did almost 15 years ago (long before my time), titled Ohio Online: The Harvest of Ohio’s Best Web Sites. I didn’t even believe her when she started describing it to me, so she had to get me a copy from the warehouse to prove her point.
This book was published in 1998, just as Internet use was becoming more common in households, and people all over the globe were beginning to discover how to share information online. At the time, Google was not yet ubiquitous, there was no good way of discovering the information available (Ask Jeeves, anyone?), and a book like this actually made a lot of sense. It was a collection of Ohio’s “best” websites, and each entry details exactly what could be found there, what made it unique. One of my favorites is the chapter description for the subsection “Ohio Colleges and Universities”:
With the advent of the world wide web it has now become possible to virtually tour any Ohio campus, check course catalogs, and apply for admission, all from your personal computer. Some institutions even offer courses over the net. Every site has community links and special features of its own—the best are noted.
It is fascinating to me how even our vocabulary was in flux. World wide web needed to be spelled out for clarity, “over the net” was a perfectly acceptable phrase to be used for the infant online education industry, and web site was still more commonly seen as two distinct words. It was a time when a book could guide us to the best on the web, when we needed the old to help usher us into the new, when we needed a reliable format to help translate one we hadn’t yet learned to navigate or trust.
And the Internet has changed an awful lot in 15 years (I tried some of the “hot links” listed and got a lot of error messages):
And yet, what struck me, was that while the tools we used 15 years ago to navigate the internet are mostly irrelevant, very few tools that help us navigate physical books have changed. I still know how to find this book’s content (the table of contents, the glossary, the index in the back), I still know where the author’s name will be, where the copyright information will be, how to flip one page after another, where the price and ISBN is located, etc. We take for granted the ancient knowledge we have about books. We know how to use them, flip through them, discover them.
Of course, books are in their own state of flux, with ebooks, and interactive apps, and metadata dominating the digital discussion, but really, won’t we still always know how to handle the physical book? The digital book is opening up new worlds of possibility, to be sure, but it’s hard for me to imagine that it will kill the physical book entirely. Perhaps it is sentiment that keeps us attached to this product, perhaps it is usability, perhaps it is tradition or evolution or history, but we have to admit there is something that makes it still valuable. There are books I own as ebooks, and books I want to hold, books I want to download tonight to read in bed, and books that I want to pass down to my own children someday, books that I will devour in hours, and books that I want to read, and reread, and dog-ear, and underline. Physical books and digital books exist on my physical and virtual shelves metaphorically side-by-side (as they should) and I will continue to rely on these “old” materials even as the internet takes over more facets of our everyday lives. Because don’t get me wrong, I love the internet, but I also love things that are sustainable, things that stick around for more than 500 years, things like books.
And, in the spirit of the 1998 Internet “harvest,” I thought I would go ahead and round up some of my own favorite websites. So if you have an interest in the publishing world, sink your teeth into these:
The Millions is the book blog of book blogs. Whether it’s reviews, essays, or interviews, The Millions is a first-stop. And really, they had me forever after they posted a series of literary tea flavors (all puns) to their Facebook page. True love.
Whether you are in the bookselling trade or the publishing trade, Shelf Awareness is a daily read. Sign up for their daily emails to get news from the pub world, bookstore opening announcements, pre-publication information, and more.
Ancient photos of historic libraries, book release round-ups, famous authors on bicycles, Flavorwire literally covers all of your easily digestible pop-culture-esque book news.
And, finally, a spoiler alert: TOMORROW Orange Frazer will have big web news, so stay tuned here and on our Facebook page (facebook.com/OrangeFrazerPress) for the latest!