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TMCNet:  The New Review: Books: THE NEW READING: Ebooks, Kindles and the web: It's time to dig out that long-lost dissertation...

[April 06, 2014]

The New Review: Books: THE NEW READING: Ebooks, Kindles and the web: It's time to dig out that long-lost dissertation...

(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Last week I resuscitated an old hard drive. I had to order some new screwdrivers, disassemble a bricked laptop on my kitchen table, gouge out its heart and load it into a new machine via a deeply dodgy, Shenzhen-built enclosure; but eventually I found what I was looking for: my dissertation. Written nearly 10 years ago, it's a hazy and outdated overview of artificially intelligent attempts at poetic creativity. Nevertheless, at 40,000 words it remains one of the most serious and lengthy things I've ever written, and worth saving from the e-waste stacks. At least for me, and at least for now, until the next crash.

There is so much text out there, and most of it remains forever unread. Joseph Stromberg, a science reporter for, recently detailed his engagement with LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, an operation devoted to making available tens of thousands of theses and dissertations which would otherwise remain forever unread. They pay almost nothing, do no marketing, and ask the author to provide all legal and academic assurance. The book is simply added to a vast database, with pennies paid if anyone ever orders it. Which is unlikely. This is the reality of the long tail - you're welcome to check out LAP Lambert, if you're looking for a copy of Contaminant Transport Modeling Through Saturated Porous Media or Manufacturing of a Rapid Solidification Materials and Fibers And yet, and yet. Stromberg said yes. And so would I. Sure, it cost him $60 to own one printed copy of his own book. And sure, it's unlikely anyone else will ever buy it - but it lives. As anyone who's dug through the back stacks of old bookshops, or plumbed the single-copy depths of university libraries, knows: there is so much text out there. We have finally developed the tools to make it live forever, not buried in desk drawers or dead hard drives, but accessible, available; and sometimes that means putting it out by unscrupulous or anonymous means. If you have it, set it free.

Caption: The single-copy depths of a university library reveal just how much text is out there.

(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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