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Presentation Details


The Once and Future Book

Dr. Steven Escar Smith, Dr Fred Heath.

Too often our considerations of the future book begin with assumptions largely rooted in the last 500 years of book history i.e. the history of the printed codex. The authors of this paper believe a better understanding of the full potential of the ebook can be achieved by a better understanding of the various forms and formats the 'book' has assumed throughout its long history. They will begin with a consideration of the book in some of its most ancient forms and then briefly move through the various innovations in that form over the last 5000 years. Such a view does not discount but looks beyond the history of the printed codex to consider prior as well as parallel forms. In the shifts from one form to another, we see patterns of innovation, reuse, and abandonment that can inform us as to the future development and use of the electronic book. A few of these shifts will be examined minutely to see if they can inform us about current and future developments in book form and technology.


Dr. Steven Escar Smith  (United States)
Director and Associate Dean
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives
Texas A&M University

Dr Steven Smith is Director of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives and Associate University Librarian for Advancement. He holds the C. Clifford Wendler Cushing Library Professorship. He also holds an adjunct appointment on the graduate faculty of the Department of English. He has been at Texas A&M for 12 years. He holds degrees from the University of South Carolina and from Texas A&M. He has published and lectured extensively on the history of books and printing as well as on the management of archives and special collections libraries.

Dr Fred Heath  (United States)

Sterling C. Evans Library
Texas A&M University

  • The book as a physical artifact
  • The evolution of the book
  • Shifts in book format and technology
  • The electronic book

(30 min Conference Paper, English)