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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Provisional Words

Nick Carr posts about Automatically Updated Books. How devices like the Kindle can provide updated text for for any work. Great for a book that needs up-to-date information. It is just updated in the background. This allows us to update the 'truth' at will. So will there never be a fixed truth? Will it allow the government update anything it wants? Will there no longer be a hardcopy to let us see what has changed?

This situation exists on the Web today. I can change anything I want on this blog and sometimes do to fix something like a typo. I do not keep a printed version. Wikis address the problem by keeping a history of changes so that any specific edition can be re-created. It is messy and few people do it, but it can be done.

Now assume physical books go away and we update content from a single database source.

In the old physical method of distribution, thousands of books are printed and they are distributed to book stores and libraries. I could create a book with changed content, but it would be difficult to replace all of the copies.

This is like the general copying problem. The Web allows us to easily make copies of existing text. A central repository of digital texts would allow us to readily update, for whatever purpose, copies of a text. Some appropriate safeguards would be needed, like the Wiki solution, for master copies of digital works.

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