What makes a book worthy of preservation?

By Sophie Lee, Erin Brown and Jimmy Barton.

What makes a book worthy of preservation?

Commercial reasons

The most obvious answer would, of course, be commercial gain. The popularity of a text goes a long way in determining whether it is re published; a method of preserving the text, although not the physical work.

Historical importance

If a text has particular historical importance, for example if it still contains writing and annotations in it from the 17th or 18th century, then this would also usually be seen as an important piece of work to preserve. This, of course, would be preservation in the physical sense as well as preservation of the words in the text.

To an extent, both the text and the physical copy can be preserved digitally, thanks to scanning and encoding, however only an image of the physical text would be preserved, rather than the physical text itself.

Preservation in Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore

In Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour Book Store, there is a belief that the ‘Codex Vitae’ holds the key to immortality, thus it is being preserved. This shows how the book’s influence and effect is a key value in determining preservation. If the book wasn’t so significant, would they still be trying to crack the code and preserving it? There is an air of selfishness in the sense that there are a select few who know the truth behind the book and that it would hold the key to immortality. It is a symbol of power. On the other hand, the age of the book also makes it desirable. Google wish to digitize it and preserve it because it is their goal with everything. The character Kat expresses this desire of omnipotent knowledge.

How do these corporations operate? – The Festina Lente Company gains their money off the copyrighted fonts. They are much smaller than Google and have more personal reasons of preservation, such as the numerous ‘Codex Vitae’s’ of the members of the Unbroken Spine. Google’s money from advertisement drives their projects of preservation and digitization. They wish to preserve life through keeping these works of literature. Google’s scope and audience reflect their aims of preservation. Google use [Clay uses] the ‘Grumble Gear’ scanner to digitally preserve these ‘Codex Vitae’ [for his team and Google]. The method is much more contemporary, and much more technologically supported than the book chase and decoding the Unbroken Spine makes their members do.

Google’s immortality is symbolized in the significant use of their search engines, and people’s subconscious continuous use of their website [webserevices and search engine]. It is the similar immortality that is hidden in the font ‘Gerritszoon.’ It is so obvious that it is hard to realize. The preservation value of the book lies in its significance for others, be it personal or commercial. Alan Liu describes how a symbiosis of both Google’s methods and the FLC’s methods of preservation would be ultimately the most affective. Liu states ‘it may be that experiencing and communicating literature through social-computing technologies will do more than supplement older reading, interpreting, and performing practices. The payoff will be an evolution in our understanding of the nature of reading, interpreting, and performing.’

Here, technology and conventional methods work together to improve the preserved piece, through its interpretation and understanding.


1813 – Second edition of Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen.

88406-335x352Image courtesy of Peter Harrington – London


2011 published edition of Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen.



Image courtesy of AustenProse.



One thought on “What makes a book worthy of preservation?

  1. Some interesting comparisons between the FLC / Unbroken Spine and Google. Liu is quite optimistic about the democritisation of digital knowledge – do you think Robin Sloan is?


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