Format Schmormat

I was going through my books the other day…What? You don’t randomly look at your personal library? No? Must be a librarian thing…

Anyhoo, I was going through my books the other day and I came across this gem:

Title page from a 1922 Kipling Book

It’s a little fuzzy (taking a picture whilst my Surface is plugged in and charging is a tough task for yours truly), but you should be able to see the copyright date: 1922.

I snagged this beauty at the Victor Hugo Bookstore in Boston before it closed. While being surrounded by a bunch of books makes me feel warm and fuzzy, the books that make up that bunch usually don’t elicit the same feelings. I have no problems donating books that I have no interest in reading again. Nor do I frequent used bookshops for prized first editions. The Buddhist tennant of non-attachment comes easily to me. I don’t pine after possessions. But I will admit this book was the exception to that rule.

At the same time, I have no problem reading eBooks and while I can’t make use of them (thanks to my hearing difficulties) I love the fact that audiobooks are there to get people reading. The format of a material is unimportant, it’s the content that I prize. I love the digital revolution because it’s making masterpieces more widely available than ever. Digital collections allow folks that can’t make it to their library physically and don’t have the disposable income to get their hands (well, cyber-hands anyway) on books.

Digital collections also act as preservation tools. Back in April I was in DC. So naturally, I had to visit the Library of Congress. One my stops was the American Folk Life Center. It was there that I able to listen to some original recordings of the Delta Blues, Son House, Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and more.

The recordings were done by a man named Alan Lomax. He would travel the deep south looking for local music to record on a fancy phonograph. He did this to help preserve part of a culture that was rapidly changing. The history of the Blues is a history of racism and by capturing these amateur artists, Mr. Lomax gave us accounts of those struggles.

The recordings I listened to were on CDs, thankfully. Not only are CDs more durable than vinyl, they can also clean up some of the audio. While the format I was privy to wasn’t the original, it was better for me. The troubles I have with those old recordings, again, thanks to my hearing, is plentiful. So I got chills listening to the 2nd generation original (if I may be so bold as to make up a phrase). I was listening the preserved original recordings of Mr. Lomax, in the very place they were stored. And it was accessible to me only because the LoC and I are of the same mind: format schmormat, it’s the content that counts.

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