The Library Beyond the Book

The Book

With textbook readers and digital downloads proliferating, it is easy to imagine a time when printed books will vanish. Such forecasts miss the mark, argue Jeffrey Schnapp and Matthew Battles. Future bookshelves will not be wholly virtual, and libraries will thrive—although in a variety of new social, cultural, and architectural forms. Schnapp and Battles combine deep study of the library’s history with a record of institutional and technical innovation at metaLAB, a research group at the forefront of the digital humanities. They gather these currents in The Library Beyond the Book, exploring what libraries have been in the past to speculate on what they will become: hybrid places that intermingle books and ebooks, analog and digital formats, paper and pixels.

Libraries have always been mix-and-match spaces, and remix is their most plausible future scenario. Speculative and provocative, The Library Beyond the Book explains book culture for a world where the physical and the virtual blend with ever increasing intimacy.

The Deck

Throughout The Library Beyond the Book are a series of provocations for thinking about the future of libraries—some practical, some fanciful. Cristoforo Magliozzi remixed these provocations into playable card deck using and reworking the existing design elements and images of the book. These decks are available for purchase upon request.

The Doc

Inspired by the closing chapter of The Library Beyond the Book, Cold Storage is a 24-minute documentary short film directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi interlinked with an expanding collection of intertextual media artifacts, an archive of experiments and experiences in and around the Harvard Depository (“HD”), Harvard’s off-site library storage facility. Taken together, the film and its associated media collection explore how libraries have changed from the “shrines to knowledge” of the past to the evolving networks that interconnect vast warehouses and patrons of the present. By looking at objects as varied as books, databases, and air-conditioning systems, what conversations about libraries of the future may be prompted? View documentary.


metaLABprojects series

The series provides a platform for emerging currents of experimental scholarship, documenting key moments in the history of networked culture, and promoting critical thinking about the future of institutions of learning. The volumes’ eclectic, improvisatory, idea-driven style advances the proposition that design is not merely ornamental, but a means of inquiry in its own right. Accessibly priced and provocatively designed, the series invites readers to take part in reimagining print-based scholarship for the digital age. The first six books in the series are:

Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Battles, The Library Beyond the Book (2014)
Johanna Drucker, Graphesis – Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (2014)
Todd Presner, David Shepherd, and Yoh Kawano, HyperCities – Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (2014)
Peter Der Manuelian, Digital Giza - Visualizing the Pyramids (2016)
Tim Lenoir and Luke Caldwell, The Military-Entertainment Complex (2018)
Tara McPherson, Feminist in a Software Lab - Difference + Design (2018)

Originally developed in partnership with Harvard University Press, the series migrated to MIT Press in 2019.

Contact metaLAB

Please direct inquiries about the book, playing card deck, and film to