From Publishers Weekly
Is the age of the printed book coming to an end? If history is any guide, notes Harvard University Library director Darnton, not any time soon. In this collection of previously published essays, an unashamed apology for the printed word, Darnton, an eloquent writer and one of the world's foremost historians of the book, offers a fascinating history of our literary past and a penetrating look at the disruptive forces shaping the future of publishing. Almost no topic is untouched, from the role of libraries to metadata, the print traditions of Europe, piracy old and new, Darnton's own forays into digital initiatives and the efficacy—even the beauty—of our changing literary landscape over centuries of development. This book clearly has a main character, however—Google. The search giant appears often. While the individual essays are brief, in sum, the book offers a deep dive into the evolution of the written and published word. Darnton offers little cover from the winds of change, but for book lovers and publishing professionals he offers the comfort that comes from understanding the past, and hope, as he places the Internet among a litany of disruptive innovations the book has survived. (Oct. 27)
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Chronicle of Higher Education, August 29, 2010
“A useful text with which to muse on this subject is Robert Darnton's The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (PublicAffairs, 2009). In it, the onetime newspaper reporter, distinguished scholar of the Enlightenment and the history of the book, and director of Harvard's libraries, swings between explanations and concerns about Google Book Search, and how the situation with books today looks in the perspective of history. Many of his observations give pause.”