Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Alphonse de Lamartine, to the editor of the Revue Europeanne, in 1831 (ref. Essential McLuhan, p. 60):
Before this century shall run out, journalism will be the whole press. Mankind will write their book day by day, hour by hour, page by page. Thought will spread abroad with the rapidity of light, instantly conceived, instantly written, instantly understood at all the extremities of the earth, it will spread from pole to pole, suddenly burning with the fervor of soul which made it burst forth; it will be the reign of the human mind in all its plenitude; it will not have time to ripen, to accumulate in the form of a book; the book will arrive too late; the only book possible from day to day is a newspaper.


Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage, in The Abominations of Modern Society (p. 137, in the chapter entitled Leprous Newspapers), in 1872:
The newspaper is the great educator of the nineteenth century. There is no force compared with it. It is book, pulpit, platform, forum, all in one. And there is not an interest—religious, literary, commercial, scientific, agricultural, or mechanical—that is not within its grasp. All our churches, and schools, and colleges, and asylums, and art-galleries feel the quaking of the printing-press.


Tryon Edwards, D.D., from whose 1891 book, A Dictionary of Thoughts, these thoughts were taken, said:
Newspapers are the world's cyclopædia of life; telling us everything from every quarter of the globe. --They are a universal whispering gallery for mankind, only their whispers are sometimes thunders.
As it happens, I have a copy of the 1961 edition of this book, revised, enlarged (from 644 pages to 794), and retitled The New Dictionary of Thoughts. It appears to include the original quotations, although I did notice that the Talmage quote above was shortened to just the first three sentences in the newer edition, leaving it, in my opinion, rather weightless.

I found the older edition online at Google Book Search. If you have a Google account, you can build your own online library there and, as with WorldCat and Library Thing, there is also a social aspect. I can share my library with other people, and if they are interested in knowing when I add another book, they can subscribe to my library's RSS feed.

How might that be useful? For example, I've added some full-text books to my library which contain family history information about some of my ancestors. I might want to share the find with others who share my lineage. There's a place for me to add my own notes, and I've used it to indicate page numbers where relevant material appears. Search boxes to the right of the text images enable additional searching within each particular text, within my own library, or throughout Google Books.

Books which are still under copyright are not available full-text, but some have viewable snippets which may enable you to decide whether it would be worthwhile to find that book through online booksellers (clickable from within Book Search) or at a library. Clicking the library search uses WorldCat to show you what libraries have the book. If you have a WorldCat account, you can add the title to one of your lists. Nice integration of services!

Oh, did I forget to mention? You can also download full-text books in PDF format to keep or print, or you can switch from page images to OCR-read plain text from which you can copy and paste. Take a look at my library and check out the other nifty features. You'll find Google Book Search a really powerful tool.