Show Less
Restricted access

The Future of the Library

From Electric Media to Digital Media


Robert K. Logan and Marshall McLuhan

Originally written in the late 1970s, this book was untouched for more than 35 years. McLuhan passed away before it went to press, but Logan always intended to finish it. Even though much has changed in the three decades since work on the project was halted, many of the points that McLuhan and Logan made in the era of ‘electric media’ are highly cogent in the era of ‘digital media.’
Looking at the future of the library from the perspective of McLuhan’s original vision, Logan has carefully updated the text to address the impact of the Internet and other digital technologies on the library. McLuhan prophetically foreshadowed the transformative effect that computing would have on «mass library organization,» saying it would become obsolescent. It is perhaps no coincidence that a key theme of the book is that libraries must strive to create context given today’s hyper information overload. The authors believe this task can be achieved by putting together a compact library of books providing an overview of human culture and scholarship.
This book is based on the original text that McLuhan and Logan wrote. Logan’s updates are integrated in the main text and clearly identified by markers. This preserves the flow of the original text and at the same time provides updates in the context of the original study. Other significant updates include two new chapters: Chapter 6 provides a LOM (Laws of the Media) treatment of the new post-McLuhan digital media, and Chapter 7 discusses the impact of these media on today’s library. A second part to the concluding Chapter has been added to update some of the conclusions reached in 1979, and there is also a new preface.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 12. Future of the Book


← 164 | 165 →

· 12 ·


Much confusion about the figure of the book, past, present, and future, results from the new ground that environs both book and reader today. The printed book is a definitive package that can encode ancient times and be sent to remote destinations. More than electronic information, it submits to the whims of the user. It can be read and reread in large or small portions, but it always recalls the user to patterns of precision and sequential attention. Unlike the user of the telephone and other electric media, the user of the book retains his physical body and identity. Unlike radio and phonograph, the book does not provide an environment of resonating information that merges with social scenes and dialog. As the levels of sound and video images envelop the user, he “turns off” in order to retain his identity. The first video age presents the example of a generation of literate people who, in various ways, have turned off or gone numb. In contrast, the merely tribal man, or preliterate, would seem to feel no threat to his personal life from the new electronic surround.

The book can be sent anywhere, as a gift or as a component of a service environment. With electric media, it is, paradoxically, the sender who is sent. This flip, or chiasmus of form and function, occurs at the level of instant speed and is characteristic of telephone and...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.