Push for digital media has major flaws...
Our frequent Overnight Lite guest columnist Dr. John Richard Schrock has strong opinions (backed by lots of hard evidence) about learning, reading, books, and print. This month is no exception!
The book was in the library last year because I checked it out and returned it.
Now that I need to recheck a few sentences I want to quote—it isn’t there anymore. It hasn’t been checked out. It is simply gone, discarded because it can be accessed online through some library service.
With the book in hand, I know right where to turn to locate my quote. Instead, I must sit down and bring it up online—a longer process. If it is in PDF format, I can print it. Time consuming. And wasteful, both paper-wise and energy-wise.
Nationwide, more of my colleagues are frustrated with libraries that are discarding books without consulting faculty.
Many libraries have been led by the pied-piper of tech companies into believing that everyone will be reading on laptops, tablets and other handheld media in the future.
That future when we would abandon all books and be reading on digital media was predicted to be 2015. It did not happen!
There was an initial upward curve in folks switching to reading on electronic devices. It tapered off and fell back to barely one-fifth of readers.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores remain in business and Amazon orders for printed books remain solid.
We are paying a huge price to go to online “open access.” Across time, the cost of migrating online “publications” to new software and hardware rapidly exceeds the maintenance of the book on the library shelf. The migration rate is relatively fast. Depending on our age, we have experienced the short times electronic hardware lasts, from files on 8-inch floppy discs, to 3-inch floppy discs, then to CDs, and now flash drives that will soon be obsolete.
Software also changes. If you are over 30 years old, you probably stored your first files on an MS-DOS system. But if you did not move them to newer formats, they are lost.
We all know folks with photographs on their cell phones, but after upgrading to new phones, found their photos are gone forever.
Vint Cerf, one of the designers of the internet protocols, warned about the rapid obsolescence of digital media. “If there are photos you really care about, print them out,” he said.
Our libraries contain the documents in print, and are throwing them out for digital media that are soon obsolete.
Despite our enthusiasm for “going digital,” we are actually losing scientific research that is only “published” on the internet in so-called “open access.” In 2001, a survey published in the journal Science found that online URLs (the addresses of files accessed online) eroded at a rate of 10% every 15 months, and this rate continues today.
More research that is supported by public money and occupies the time and effort of dedicated researchers, will end up disappearing. And there is no comprehensive internet archive that preserves and migrates up all science publications.
On the other hand, journals printed on acid free paper last 500 years and are then easily copied for another 500 years!
Failure to buy into the digital future frustrates futurist publishers. Nothing speaks louder than the millions of college students who overwhelmingly prefer a printed textbook.
The backlit computer screen is slower to read, results in less comprehension, accelerates eyestrain, and promotes skimming.
While K–12 students are forced to read digital media by futuristic administrators, college students are freer to make textbook decisions and most chose print.
They know the paper textbook is superior for the faster “deep reading” that college learning requires.
Publishers refuse to accept this, although their predictions that all college textbooks would be digital five years ago has proven wrong.
The push to make classrooms and libraries all digital is promoted by propaganda sent to both K–12 and higher education institutions in the guise of free “journals” touting slogans such as “you can’t teach tomorrow’s students with today’s technology.”
Digital obsolescence is a major contributor to the higher cost and lower performance of U.S. education.
Editor’s Note: At Copresco, we realize misguided reliance on digital media is a universal problem that is not restricted to academia. We know some in the business world who suffer from the same plight.