In an article published on the BBC News site in October '09, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web,confessed that the "whack-whack" (//) in a web address was actually "unnecessary." He said that he had no idea that the forward slashes in every web address would cause "so much hassle." Well, 20 years ago, Sir Berners-Lee revealed his pair of forward slashes and they have been whack-whacking everything in sight since. All major media have succumbed to the transformative powers of the mighty "//." It was only a matter of time before books would find themselves being double slashed.
A full-scale assault is under way. Wal-Mart and Amazon used the double slashes to initiate a price war that sent the price of hardcover books below $10. Not to be outdone, Barnes and Noble raised a pair of slashes to join Sony and Amazon in the digital reader battles. Amazon and others further whack-whacked books by moving the e-reader software onto smart-phones. Amazon has started swinging the double slash at text books as it targets the Kindle reader at academia. Google is whack-whacking books and periodicals in the public domain with its Google Books while HP is re-whack-whacking the same imaged books with a print on-demand service. In case you were wondering, those reprinted books from digital images of the original hardcover books can be purchased through //www.amazon.com. Meanwhile, Internet Archive's BookServer will attempt to make even more books available directly to individuals through laptops, phones, netbooks, or dedicated reading devices. Libraries, once the gate keeper of the "Book stacks" are now wrestling with how to lend books via the "eBook Stacks". Finally, The New York Times posed the question "Will books be Napsterized?" and described how people snatch free copies of digital books from on-line users at file-storage sites.
Are books standing on the plank newspapers, music, and videos have walked? The double slashes are quite efficient at whack-whacking and reducing physical media to digital bits. It seems unlikely books will survive the assault as physical stores give way to digital stores and the weight of paper yields to the wait-lessness of downloads. But weight alone is not enough to break the spine of the book. The whack-whacking of books by eReaders is derived by uniting capabilities and redefining the reading experience with instant, additional information. Simply pressing one's finger on a word or phrase makes it highlight-able and note-able for future reference; searchable for dictionary meaning, placed into context via Wikipedia or searchable via Google, Bing or Yahoo. It appears that data centers and not mega centers will ultimately house endless collections of fiction and nonfiction. Mobile 3/4G will replace I-80 as the road taken to pick up a good read in the future.
It remains to be seen if Apple's iPad will accelerate the demise of the printed word. It is clear we will read more books digitally and store those eBooks on virtual shelves. As it becomes easier to pull a book off of the "shelf" from anywhere, the requirements for security, performance and availability increase. A spike in demand requires immediate response to satisfy customers, shopping carts must be secure and the store must remain open 24x7x365. We've designed the ServerIron ADX family 9 to meet the scalability, security and availability our customers require and their customers expect. When you sit between the reader and a bestselling book, you have to securely complete the transaction and begin the download immediately. Products like the ADX1000 with SSL acceleration are built to move the book from the shelf to the reader quickly.
In 1455, Gutenberg automated the printing process and sowed the seeds of mass media, enabling the growth of newspapers and books that lasted over 450 years. Now, in the time it took Rip Van Winkle to sleep, we're watching the presses grind to a stop. In 1989 Sir Tim Berners-Lee began joining hypertext to the internet. In that same year John Grisham's first novel A Time to Kill was published in hardcover. It is ironic that 20 years later Grisham's latest novel Ford County would be whack-whacked by the Wal-Mart Amazon on-line price war. “If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over,” said David Gernert, Mr. Grisham’s literary agent, in a recent New York Times article.
So, perhaps the hassle of the "//" lies in the hands of the beholder. If the slashes get you down next time you buy, download, stream, or read something from the web, just yell whack-whack! Hopefully doing so will make you feel a whole lot better.