Dirac, you're absolutely right there about the dire consequences of throwing away the hard copy once things have been digitised. I could bore you all with many stories from my own experience of this, going to libraries and finding that things have become inaccessible! (Obviously, I spend far
too much time in libraries!
) The British Library, for example, planned to chuck all their hard copy newspapers once they were microfilmed - I think that stopped because of the outcry. The worst, I think, was in a large public library in Australia, where they photographed the old card catalogue, and put the facsilmiles on a computer catalogue (no money to actually do a proper searchable data entry), and then put the old card-catalogue in storage, with an ongoing debate as to whether they should just chuck it. But some of the old, hand-written cards are unreadable in their fuzzy two or three-generation photograph, scanned into a computer programme. So much so that cards for books which I know
I have had in my hand had disappeared - and thus, in many ways, the book "disappeared" - although I know it's in physical existence, I couldn't access it on my last visit there. And when I complained and did the whole academic "my research is important/do you know who I am?" (It has to be done in extreme emergencies
) the librarians really didn't seem to care - they were just old books that "no-one" read regularly ... But don't get me started on the intellectual poverty of much of Australia's public life, I'll only offend other members of this board ...
I do think, however, we need to flexible about some things - print and the book as we know them, are technologies just as computers, hypertext, the Web and so on. I heard literary hypertext guru George Landow speak last week at a conference at my university here in the UK. He had a very useful little mantra: with all transformations or changes in media, there are gains and there are losses. We need to be as clear as we can about both
gains and losses. What would we do without the Web now? I can remember in the early 1990s using Unix text command e-mail programmes, and finding the first GUI web browser (Mosaic in black & white!) amazing and extraordinaty - but also irritating because I had to upgrade my computers (v expensive then) ...
This is a really important debate in which all readers should participate everywhere there's a library or an 'information resource.' It's just a pity it's an agenda usually run by cost