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Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (2001)

This is a remarkably readable book, even for those who have no real interest in the subject matter. You will be surprised, enlightened, and probably disgusted, 

Opening Paragraph:

In 1993, I decided to write some essays on trifling topics -- movie projectors, fingernail clippers, punctuation, and the history of the word "lumber." Deborah Garrison, then an editor at The New Yorker, called to ask if I wanted to review a soon-to-be published history of the world. Perhaps I should have written the review; instead, I suggested a brief, cheerful piece about the appeal of card catalogs. I began talking to librarians around the country, and I found out that card catalogs were being thrown out everywhere. I grew less cheerful, and the essay grew longer.

Book Jacket Copy:

Since the 1950s, our country's libraries have followed a policy of "destroying to preserve": They have methodically dismantled their collections of original bound newspapers, cut up hundreds of thousands of so-called brittle books, and replaced them with microfilmed copies -- copies that are difficult to read, lack all the color and quality of the original paper and illustrations, and deteriorate with age. Half a century on, the results of this policy are jarringly apparent: There are no longer any complete editions remaining of most of America's great newspapers. The loss to historians and future generations is inestimable.

In this passionately argued book, bestselling writer Nicholson Baker, author of The Mezzanine, Vox, and The Everlasting Story of Nory, explains the marketing of the brittle-paper crisis and the real motives behind it. Pleading the case for saving our newspapers and books so that they can continue to be read in their original forms, he tells how and why our greatest research libraries betrayed the public's trust by selling off or pulping irreplaceable collections. The players include the Library of Congress, the CIA, NASA, microfilm lobbyists, newspaper dealers, and a colorful array of librarians and digital futurists, as well as Baker himself, who discovers that the only way to save one important newspaper archive is to cash in his retirement savings and buy it -- all twenty tons of it. Double Fold, the author's first full-length nonfiction in a decade, is a timely book on a subject of great intellectual and historical importance, a fascinating exposť written in the intense, brilliantly worded narrative style that Nicholson Baker fans have come to expect.

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