The shift to digital text is beginning to separate content from format. The text no longer relies on the materiality of the book, instead turning into a file accessible through multiple digital devices. Material information that used to frame our reading experience is slowly fading to the background: creases and marginalia, the traces left by use, disappear in the digital world. In the age of digital reproduction, there is no more aura: only content. Or is there? In a world of embedded metadata, weightless information, and searchable text, can we talk about unlimited reproduction? And what are the consequences?

The shift from a physical to a digital archive is gradually affecting the way we read, conduct research, and write. For a sense of the pace of this transformation, take the card catalog. Ubiquitous a mere twenty years ago, it is increasingly...

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