James J. O'Donnell is the University Librarian at ASU Library. He has published widely on the history and culture of the late antique Mediterranean world and is a recognized innovator in the application of networked information technology in higher education. In 1990, he co-founded Bryn Mawr Classical Review, the second on-line scholarly journal in the humanities ever created. In 1994, he taught an Internet-based seminar on the work of Augustine of Hippo that reached 500 students which deserves to be called the first MOOC. He has served as a Director, as Vice President for Publications, and as President of the American Philological Association; he has also served as a Councillor of the Medieval Academy of America and has been elected a Fellow of the Medieval Academy. He serves as Chair of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies. His edition of Augustine's *Confessions* is a standard, while his most recent books, Augustine: A New Biography, The Ruin of the Roman Empire, and Pagans [March 2015] bring cutting-edge scholarship to a wide audience. His work of most relevance to issues of libraries today and tomorrow may be found in his 1998 book, Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace.
I bought an old book the other day.
Used to be, that wouldn’t have been the lede for any writing designed to grab your attention, but as pastimes go, it’s getting a bit less common, so maybe it will do.
It’s not just that old books have been crowded into a corner of the market for attention by media unimagined only yesterday, but that there are natural cycles that have also been disrupted. When I was young, we haunted second-hand bookshops and the like because we needed books––good books––ones that had been printed before we were born and long since gone out of print....