Now You See It…

Posted on March 11, 2010

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When I’m teaching my class on textual/literary editing, and we’re talking about textual problems in Shakespeare, I can go online and show the class on the projection screen one of Shakespeare’s quartos. Prior to the Web, I would either have to have the cash to purchase my own copy (Bill Gates I’m not) or convince my school to buy a copy for its library (good luck there). Or I’d have to travel to the U.K. to view the best collection of those quartos in person. An expensive proposition — even more so if I want to truck along all eleven of my students.

Without digitization and the Internet, viewing one of these admirable volumes is an elitist venture. Something only the rich can do.

I do admit that I would not have the estimable experience of walking among the volumes in the British Library, inhaling the aroma of centuries of invaluable works. Nor feel the texture of binding and paper (of course, within the confines of protective handgear). But I do have access to that content as I would see it had I had the physical object in my hands. I can carry on an intellectual investigation, and discussion, that a few years before would have been immensely impractical, if not impossible.

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