We had to destroy the library to save it

1DollarScan Book Digitizing Service: "Navicloud Data Rescue" made flesh:

When the books are received by 1DollarScan, the workers cut the spines off of them. This ensures that the pages of the book lay flat on the scanner, and makes it impossible to resell the hard copy of the book after it's been scanned. When the scanning's complete, the pages are shredded and recycled, ensuring that the owner only has access to one copy of their book: the freshly minted digital version, which can be downloaded as a PDF from the company's website via the user's password-protected account.

Prior art in Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End:

But this was like no stacks he had ever seen. The floor was draped in white tarpaulin. The air was hazy with drifting debris. He took a breath, smelled pine pitch and burnt wood -- and for a moment he couldn't stop coughing.

Brap, painfully loud now, coming from four aisles to his right. There were empty shelves here, a littering of paper scraps and deep dust.

Brrap. Against logic, sometimes recognition comes hard. But finally, Robert remembered the exact sound which that abrupt roar must be. He had heard it occasionally throughout his life, but always the machine had been outdoors.

Brrrap! A tree shredder!

Ahead of him, everything was empty bookcases, skeletons. Robert went to the end of the aisle and walked toward the noise. The air was a fog of floating paper dust. In the fourth aisle, the space between the bookcases was filled with a pulsing fabric tube. The monster worm was brightly lit from within. At the other end, almost twenty feet away, was the worm's maw -- the source of the noise. Indistinct in the swirling haze, Robert could see two white-suited figures, their jackets labeled "Huertas Data Rescue". The two wore filter masks and head protectors. They might have been construction workers. In fact, this business was the ultimate in deconstruction: first one and then the other would pull books off the racks and toss them into the shredder's maw. The maintenance labels made calm phrases of the horror: The raging maw was a "NaviCloud custom debinder". The fabric tunnel that stretched out behind it was a "camera tunnel". Robert flinched from the sight -- and Epiphany randomly rewarded his gesture with imagery from within the monster: The shredded fragments of books and magazines flew down the tunnel like leaves in tornado, twisting and tumbling. The inside of the fabric was stitched with thousands of tiny cameras. The shreds were being photographed again and again, from every angle and orientation, till finally the torn leaves dropped into a bin just in front of Robert. Rescued data.

BRRRRRAP! The monster advanced another foot into the stacks, leaving another foot of empty shelves behind it. Almost empty. Robert stepped into the aisle and his hand caught on something lying on a shelf. It wasn't dust. It was half a page, a remnant of all the thousands of books that had already been sucked into the "data rescue" equipment. He waved it at the white-suited workers and screamed words that were lost in the noise of their shredder and the worm tunnel fans.

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6 Responses:

  1. grェ says:

    Well, that is depressing. Give me http://phys.org/news203313993.html already!

    The premise that originals need to be destroyed if duplicated (same for notions of teleportation, etc.) is a really bad assumption. If using a version control system, do people nuke all old versions once a new thing is checked in? We've been able to duplicate data for a while, and keeping extra copies around, while somewhat wasteful, has predominantly been overshadowed by deduplicating filesystems and the like so that pointers to one instance of the same data are retained, even if a particular volume/datastore has just one copy (since if doing disaster recovery type scenarios, you want that set of data replicated on entire other networks/hardware; but you still want to have an entire set of data cohesively).

    sigh Humans, boundless stupidity!

    I would prefer to have an app I can scan a barcode or ISBN or something and fetch a digital copy of what I already own, but y'know PIRATES MIGHT USE IT FOR THINGS. (pro-tip: pirates have easier ways of copying things than mimicking physical collections most of the time)

  2. Ben says:

    Nice connection. BTW, there's no apostrophe in Rainbows End. It's named after the retirement community in the book, named by "an everyday illiterate or someone who really understood the place."

    • Nick Lamb says:

      Spoilers ::: If you plan to read Rainbows End skip this

      That reference seems weirdly out of place. It makes sense if you imagine a "retirement community" today, a place where people basically go to wait until they die. But a significant proportion of Rainbows End residents can expect to become retreads because of some breakthrough or other in the "heavenly minefield" of age-defying medicine. Miri's grandmother Lena is one miracle cure away from years of normal life, and a far less likely cure for Robert's Alzheimers is after all the plot justification for giving us a protagonist who sees their world how we would.
      Even as Robert realises he could "have it all" it doesn't occur to him to try to renegotiate the deal, now that he knows Lena is alive it never occurs to him to ask Rabbit to find her a cure rather than figure out how to give him back his poetry. Of course if you squint you could argue that this means the old Robert, who cares for nobody besides himself, never went anywhere...

  3. vince says:

    I always liked Rainbows End less than his other books, and I think it's because it seems so likely to come true.

    I am still waiting for his prediction of groups that seed the internet with fake info about everyone, as so far that is the only workable solution I've seen proposed that might restore a minor amount of privacy to life.

    Not to mention that this book also had the near-instant suborbital Amazon/burrito delivery service that everyone here seems excited to get.