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Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 10:48 am

The Days of Books Are Numbered

Stack of books

ANY book which does not get digitised (e.g. scanned or made available electronically) will most likely cease to be relevant some day in the near future. The way the young generation accesses information is changing, so libraries will provide no viable life line to printed literature. Moreover, what is not Open Access is likely to perish because the young generation gets accustomed to rapid access to a lot of information, free of charge. Any impediments to access will end up prioritising the competition. Those who still submit papers for publication ought to check that their papers are either made available free of charge (online) or can be legally made available online through one’s own homepage for example (some publishers use copyright to prevent the camera-ready copies from being made available anywhere outside the paywalls). For work to endure the test of time it will need to be readily available (and searchable) for all to not only access but also share with peers. Just tossing lots of papers into Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) won’t be enough to make research visible because there is lack of focus and PDFs do not get properly indexed. I quit writing papers in LATEX when I realised the people just wanted the HTML versions and not the PDFs, based on access/usage.

The reading habits, access habits, and publications habits rapidly evolve and we need to cope with change. It’s not just Wikipedia that shows us the impact of coherent texts that do not get printed to be “primed” as peer-reviewed and thus “authenticated”/”validated”. Eventually, physical books might become just a last resort/vocation (or platform) for those who are clever but don’t have a Web site in which to share ideas. They will become the equivalent of flyers or billboard protests for those who do physically what they are unable to do digitally, with a potentially broader audience.

3 Responses to “The Days of Books Are Numbered”

  1. Will Hill Says:

    It is a shame that publishers and crappy browsers are giving pdf a bad name. Google has done a good job of both digitizing and indexing books. I still like pdf papers for their ability to scale graphs and other nice layout tricks. Konqueror opens them in tabs, making it easy to compare many at the same time. I also like that I can download and share them easily. Some publishers break the ease of sharing and that is more a problem than formats. All of the things pdf does html will be able to do but I don’t expect that to happen quickly while Microsoft and Apple have a seat at w3c and a hand in html 5.

  2. Roy Schestowitz Says:

    Yes, I agree entirely, on all points.

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