Double Fold

Libraries and the Assault on Paper














By Nicholson Baker. Random House, New York. 2001. Hardcover in dust jacket. Black boards with silver lettering on spine. 370 pages.

An awful lot of non-fiction books have to do with a particular "cause" that someone takes so seriously that a book on the subject must be written. This cause, however, is so outrageous and wide-spread that it's very easy to win over converts.

Libraries, in an effort to save the knowledge contained in books and papers, routinely wind up destroying the originals in the process.

The book takes its title from the action of determining how delicate the page of a book is prior to microfilming it. You do this by folding a corner of a page first one way, then back the other way, until the paper breaks. As a result, millions of books (many of them extremely rare) are missing page corners. This is only one of many, many atrocities outlined in this book. Newspapers and magazine are completely cut apart before microfilming. In many cases, there are today no intact copies of many periodicals, papers or books. And the true tragedy is that now that much of the microfilm has deteriorated, literally nothing survives from some document.