PRESENTATION: Strategies for reconstructing the pre-history of the ebook through catalogue archives

September 15th, 2017 § 0 comments

Abstract: Amazon’s dominance of the ebook trade since 2007 can be credited to their erasure of evidence about the historical development of ebooks prior to the launch of the Kindle. This activity included removing catalogue records for their ‘Ebook and E-Doc’ store, a strategy Amazon repeated with the removal of old public domain Kindle titles in 2014. Early ebook experiments prior to the Kindle were not financially lucrative but provided the foundation for the platform’s future success. In this presentation, I will explore the challenges of analysing contemporary digital publishing due to the shifting landscape prior to the Kindle’s entry to the market. I will use a case study of Microsoft LIT format (discontinued in 2012) and, Microsoft’s dedicated catalogue of ebook titles to demonstrate the importance of the catalogue website for contemporary book historical research.
The preservation of the original ebooks is an optimistic ideal for platforms that have shut down and are therefore only available for consumers who have kept backups of files from at least half a decade ago. As a consequence, catalogues are vital evidence of what titles were available for sale. The reconstruction and preservation of these corporate catalogue records, only partially available through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The preservation of these metadata sources allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the history of the ebook and the flow of content from platforms as they fall in and out of fashion. In this paper, I present some initial findings from reconstructing this catalogue and highlight the importance of archiving contemporary ebook catalogues to preserve important evidence of early twenty-first century publishing practices.

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