“How do we keep our precious heritage of books from being lost?”
In the past few months, I have been pondering a phenomenon that I don’t think most people in the aikido world are aware of.
If you have been around in the art as long as I have, you will remember numerous technical books on aikido from the 1960s and 70s. With the exception of “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere”, perhaps one or two volumes of Morihiro Saito’s “Takemusu Aiki” series from the early 70s, and a couple of early volumes of Gozo Shioda on Yoshinkan Aikido, I can’t think of any aikido technical manuals from that era that remain in print. You are lucky if you can pick up copies from rare book dealers and hundreds of dollars each.
Coincidentally in recent years, we have witnessed the death of large book chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble in the USA reflecting the fact the people are reading less and less. We have seen the same trend in book publication here at Aikido Journal. We no longer offer any more print versions of our titles. They remain, however, available as digital books in pdf form.
Nonetheless, many books have survived in digital formats that are read on hand-held devices like Kindles and tablets. These are not like traditional printed books because you can adjust font sizes, add notes, etc. In fact, the number of pages of books in such formats are variable depending on how they are set up by reader. But with the transition to these digital formats, there are some special problems, especially for technical manual and books with a lot of photos that are specifically laid out. The use of photos in digital books is normally limited because their presence can play havoc with the page format.
So getting back to aikido technical manuals, I can think of no way to adapt them to modern digital formats other than to scan each page as an image and stitch together everything as a pdf book. This is precisely what we have done to keep these books in print. Our current library of ebooks can be found here. Also, go over and take a look at Clark Bateman’s wonderful bibliography resource and you’ll see the vast numbers of books on aikido that have been published, few of which remain in print.
Here is the problem I have been getting at in a nutshell:
- People read less and less and printed books as a medium are slowly dying
- Books consisting primarily of text and not dependent on specific layouts can be converted to digital formats
- Books with many illustrations — like aikido technical manuals — do not lend themselves to being republished in digital formats
- Although technical manuals can be scanned as images and “bound” together as pdf files, the small form factor of hand-held devices like cellular phones and even tablets make it cumbersome, if not impossible, to view the text and illustrations.
- The end result is that few of the finest publications on aikido remain in print and the present generation has lost access to numerous excellent publications by many of aikido’s greatest figures.
Books are not like films and videos that can readily be adapted to digital formats. As such old moving pictures and films have flourished in the digital age.
Here is my challenge to you… Please give me suggestions as to ways that these books filled with images can be preserved and made available one again in a format that will find a large enough market to warrant their republication.