That’s the title of a very interesting article by Peter Brantley in Publishers Weekly.  He speaks about a problem that has never occured to me.

Today, a growing number of authors publish books directly on their own website, via distributor/retailers such as Smashwords, or through direct retailer-sponsored programs such as the Amazon KDP program. Barnes & Noble has a strong self-publishing program called PubIt!, Kobo Books has just launched Kobo Writing Life, and new entrants like Zola Booksare announcing their own direct selling platforms.

Almost none of these ebooks are visible through existing distributors. Even as the Library of Congress ramps up support for the ingest of digital books, journals, and other materials, a growing amount of content is going “missing” from traditional sources. What this means is that a growing amount of important literature is not being acquired, and therefore not preserved, with any assurance for future generations. This could range from the latest Barry Eisler short thriller to equally (if not more) important self-published memoirs from Americans whose stories would never have made it through a traditional publishing vetting system. There are a great number of significant science fiction/fantasy and romance titles that are single-channel published as well.

Read the rest.  Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.


  1. Screen books are preserved in the sense of the pre-print manuscript era preservation. That is they survive in hard-drive versions handed off to shifting network delivery systems and variable device displays via proprietary encryptions. With screen books there is a more complex survival transaction.

    Digital dark ages are suggested except for the option of printing a screen book. Our current hybrid publishing to both screen and print provides this survival option. Screen books currently have a fall back; reprint survival transaction.

    There are also phased issues in disintermediation or distribution of preservation responsibility. If the initial action is distributed to authors there remains the curation agents and repository identity to be identified and assured and those hand-offs can take half centuries.

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