Alan Liu’s The End of the End of the Book: Dead Books, Lively Margins, and Social Computing is about focusing on the fate of books and bookishness in the digital age by looking at three different types of online reading sources: Collex, Open Journal Systems, and PreE.
The first important aspect I would like to discuss is on page 499 where Liu introduces Collex. He introduces Collex as a “…scholarly digital reading environment─an integrated platform of data resources, protocols, and architecture, with an interface for researching texts─created by the NINES (Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online) organization” (499). In other words, Collex is basically an online research database like the one Clemson students use through Cooper Library (which applies to this class perfectly because each one of us has used Clemson’s online database for a class one point in time). Defining Collex is important to Liu’s overall argument because he is looking at three different online databases that may be effecting the livelihood of books and bookishness.
The second important aspect I would like to discuss is on pages 499 and 503. Liu describes the Open Journal Systems or OJS. He states that the OJS “…is a complete, open-source platform for publishing online journals developed by the Public Knowledge Project, a consortium of researchers in several Canadian and US universities. OJS allows editors with minimal technical skills to generate customized, well-designed journals” (499,503). This can be applied to our class because a lot of the scholarly articles we read probably have used a system like OJS to help format their articles. This is important to Liu’s overall argument because he believes this is another online system that is effecting the livelihood of books and bookishness; he believes people are turning away from the book and depending on these online databases for research and formatting.
The last important aspect I would like to discuss is on page 503. Liu introduces PreE. He describes it as “…a “professional reading environment”…it is matched up for testing with the “REKn” repository of approximately thirteen thousand primary and one hundred thousand secondary Renaissance literary resources” (503). In other words, PreE is just like Collex because it acts as another type of online research database. As I mentioned before, this can apply to our class because at some point in time (especially be English majors) we have had to use an online database to do research for a class. This is important to Liu’s overall argument because it is his last example of how online databases are replacing the book and effecting bookishness along the way.
Although I enjoyed this reading, I was confused on a couple of points that Liu made. On page 506, Liu introduces the “Data Structure Hierarchy” and states “Given these axioms, we can define online use (thoughtful or otherwise) a_s operability specific to the level of data structure_ or holistically, the overall topography of operability versus data structure” (506). I am confused as to how this graph applies to the “end of the book” and how he can come to this conclusion based off of a graph he completely made up himself. The way he defined the graph made it even more confusing for me to understand.
In addition, I also found his definition of “margination” to be confusing. Liu states that margin “…is where bookishness is meeting up with social computing. It is in social computing that the agency behind the greatest structure of knowledge, today is collecting: not “bookshelf” or “library” but society” (516). In my opinion, this statement is self-contradicting to his overall argument. I am not sure if he is for social computing or against it because up until this point I thought he was against it.
My question to him would be how are books dying if they are transcribed into online databases? Is that not making books more efficient for college use and for scholarly articles?