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The end of print


9 Mar 2012 9:57PM
Many, many years ago, the monks who laboured for many long hours to produce a single book thought that the new fangled printing press was no threat to them. How could anybody possibly not require beautiful books, sometimes works of art by themselves, made by hand over many months in preference to books printed on paper that could tear so easily and spoil? In the end, it was the simple matter of cost that killed the monks and their book production off and made information more widely available to the general masses of the medieval world.

No, print will not be killed off completely but it may become somewhat of a rarity as electronic media becomes more commonplace. A lot of the respondents here have forgotten the rise of the tech savvy younger generations who prefer their reading material on iPad and e-readers and who are looking towards a more sustainable environment that will see fewer forests being cut down for newsprint and book production. I grew up with the printed word and still read magazines and books but the world is changing and evolving to suit the preferences and tastes of the younger generations. You will find that a large majority of school age children only read textbooks for school and very little else of the printed word when they're not texting one another or surfing the web.

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StrayCat e2
10 15.5k 2 Canada
10 Mar 2012 5:03AM
As long as my wife is around, she'll need media printed on paper. She has never used a computer and refused to use the TWO ereaders I bought her. I purchased 3 books for her last weekend that I have on my PC.
Overread e2
6 3.9k 18 England
10 Mar 2012 6:27AM
To be fair any students caught researching their subject outside of the issued textbook run the risk of giving correct, insightful answers that get marked as wrong if they are not matching those given by the text book. So its not that encouraged for modern students to do much independent research (though with more schools somewhat rallying against the syllabus system this might be slowly changing).

When one does do research, even with all the tech that there is, I think it will still be a time before the digital surpasses or even equals what is easily possible with paper media. Digital reading is good for reading start to finish, but skipping around page to page is a little more iffy with some so you lose that freedom to flip to certain sections or as easily mark with physical tabs.
I'm sure once we have e-readers with touchscreens and all the like that it will become more suitable for research - esp for reading or comparing multiple text sources at the same time. Till then paper is still going to stand strong.


Also I hope that the rise of ebooks might actually push publishers to improve the quality of their books. Far too few are put out with much effort these days - heck in the realm of fantasy writing its mostly only Tolkiens works that get special treatment - most others its just plain text on paper with little special touches (a map is the most you might see and most of them are drawn by the author).
keith selmes
11 7.1k 1 United Kingdom
10 Mar 2012 8:51AM

Quote:it will still be a time before the digital surpasses or even equals what is easily possible with paper media. Digital reading is good for reading start to finish, but skipping around page to page is a little more iffy
Yes and no. I mainly want to read technical documents or research papers in pdf, and flipping through is very easy on a tablet, as is enlarging text.

What is not so easy is highlighting, marking notes on them, and comparing two side by side. So we probably still want to print them off, and I think that is a consensus opinion, even among people who find most of their material on line. Better software might help, but probably not yet.

The compromise now is that I can carry a lot of pdf and documents on my tablet and browse whenever I have some slack time, without carrying any bulky paper around. And having checked through, decide which are worth printing, and which are just going to be filed or deleted.

The other awkward thing is that tablets are difficult to read in bright sun, and I find Kindles almost impossible to use, so back to paper then as well.

For all those free downloaded classics and facsimile books, I find a tablet much easier to use, but I probably won't do much more than occasional reference with them. I'm probably sticking with real books if I want to read from cover to cover.
mikesavage e2
12 260 2 England
11 Mar 2012 12:04AM
A few years ago, a 'lost' novel by Alexandre Dumas was published ( I think it was called The Last Cavalier) after somebody discovered a manuscript & whipped it into a publishable form. In 150 years' time, if someone discovers a 'lost' novel by, say, Sebastian Faulks on a CD, will the technology of the day be able to access it? I remember reading on the Letters page of AP a few years ago about someone who had done a PhD about 25 years previously and no longer had a paper copy of their thesis. They did, however, have a copy saved on one of the older 5.25" floppy disks, written using word processing software called Wordstar on a computer that used the now-defunct CP/M operating system. The information on that disk turned out to be lost forever - nobody could access it! This is one of the reservations I have about abandoning paper altogether.
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
11 Mar 2012 12:36AM

Quote:if someone discovers a 'lost' novel by, say, Sebastian Faulks on a CD


I'm sure Mr Faulks is sensible enough to back up his writings to a 'cloud' or whatever - assuming he uses CDs at all (which I doubt). Wink
11 Mar 2012 4:39AM

Quote:A few years ago, a 'lost' novel by Alexandre Dumas was published ( I think it was called The Last Cavalier) after somebody discovered a manuscript & whipped it into a publishable form. In 150 years' time, if someone discovers a 'lost' novel by, say, Sebastian Faulks on a CD, will the technology of the day be able to access it? I remember reading on the Letters page of AP a few years ago about someone who had done a PhD about 25 years previously and no longer had a paper copy of their thesis. They did, however, have a copy saved on one of the older 5.25" floppy disks, written using word processing software called Wordstar on a computer that used the now-defunct CP/M operating system. The information on that disk turned out to be lost forever - nobody could access it! This is one of the reservations I have about abandoning paper altogether.


The fact is that of the remaining print records remaining there will be countless ones that are lost forever because they cannot be copied and are not valued enough to be protected. The fact is that we dont know how digital media will survive time despite some cases brought up. One thing though for certain is the very fact that digital media is so easily duplicated any important works will hopefully be copied and updated in enough numbers onto new media by someone somewhere. Think back only a few years to the BBC film archives lost forever but still available today thanks to early adopters of video technology who recorded programmes. Maybe we should just avoid the transient properties of film and carve things into stone because they surely will outlive celluloid. Your anecdote does however also aptly describe the failings of hardcopy in as much as they didnt have a paper version anyway so that seems to argue against its own point and debunk the claimed attributes of that medium also. leaving a slim but reasonable possibility that someone somewhere will be able to read the 5.25" disc if they look hard enough.
StrayCat e2
10 15.5k 2 Canada
11 Mar 2012 5:49AM
Look at the valuable work Guttenberg is doing in its drive to digitise the old classics; what's the point in old dusty books sitting somewhere on a shelf, and only seen by a caretaker. I believe there has been a huge resurgence of interest in the old classics because of the vastly improved accessability provided by digital media. Important documents and books will always be available on specific sites on the web, and not only to scholars. I think digital media is much more secure than paper documents and books, for one thing, they aren't going to burn in a fire and be lost forever.
Overread e2
6 3.9k 18 England
11 Mar 2012 5:56AM
Digital media won't burn in a fire and its easier to make and store multiple offsite copies. However one power cut - one random bit of info in the wrong place - one solar flare - and the whole lot can be lost or corrupted beyond use. Heck one fire and if it melts your harddrives - yep there goes all your digital media.

Cheap paper quality is, of course, also not a good long term option either, weak bindings break and lose pages; weak paper degrades and falls apart; poor ink rubs off. Heck I've even had brand new off the shelf books with missprints where the ink hasn't hit the page. (though thankfully they were small single letter errors only).

In the end no matter what system you use it is going to have weaknesses and is going to have limitations. Personally I think the best approach is a unified method - digital and paper storage in various different locations. Now books inscribed on titanium sheets they might outlast many other forms of storage, though its rather expensive!

For the current an immediate future the digital is going to be the way forward - as said its already brought renewed interest to the old classics, plus its made many more obscure or older series more available to people - no longer must you go dusting through old book shops or trawl the likes of Ebay or AbeBooks to find second hand copies. Though I'd argue a lot of people get the freebie classics just because they are free, but each one added increases the chance that someone will actually read them.
keith selmes
11 7.1k 1 United Kingdom
11 Mar 2012 8:42AM

Quote:They did, however, have a copy saved on one of the older 5.25" floppy disks, written using word processing software called Wordstar on a computer that used the now-defunct CP/M operating system. The information on that disk turned out to be lost forever - nobody could access it!
The two reasons I can see why you can't access wordstar on cp/m and 5.25 inch disk are

1) Most likely, the disk has lost data - that can happen, magnetic media need copying periodically to ensure there is no data loss

2) They couldn't afford to hire the expertise - if the disk is good, the stuff about wordstar and cp/m is not relevant - if you've got the resources you can get the data. Currently I would expect a lot of people have the capability, and there would not be any need to re-engineer the technology, but you would need to find the right people and probably pay for the service.

I think people often don't realise that disks, tapes, CD and DVD will just lose their content eventually and need transferring from time to time.
With current technology this needn't be a big job but it does need doing to avoid disappointments. In earlier years the resources needed were such that restoring books was more feasible than digitizing them, but I don't expect that is true now.

Good quality DVD will last a long time, we probably don't yet know how long, but they won't last as long as one of my books, which was printed in 1521. It has not lost any data at all, but like Wordstar and CP/M it needs some expertise to extract data as it is stored in two archaic formats, Latin and Greek.

About CP/M
http://www.cpm.z80.de/

http://www.seasip.demon.co.uk/Cpm/

http://www.gaby.de/ecpm.htm


About Wordstar
http://www.wordstar.org/

http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/users/08/ajb/tmve/wiki100k/docs/WordStar.html

http://www.brothersoft.com/wordstar-207541.html


And it's always worth looking at ebay - I suspect the man lost his phd before ebay and the web had so much available
Hugo e2
9 647 United Kingdom
11 Mar 2012 4:34PM
Solid state memory - USB keys etc? - What's the lifetime of this??
Ignoring the fact that in 15 years time, machine's won't have a USB socket.
keith selmes
11 7.1k 1 United Kingdom
11 Mar 2012 7:14PM
I have seen some figures somewhere for data retention on USB memory sticks, but the basic truth is it may be many years or it may stop working altogether tomorrow. Or in 5 minutes, or it may have already. And you're quite likely to lose it long before the data goes. Historians are going to love USB sticks. In 50 years or a hundred years, they'll be dug up in gardens and fished out from old sofa cushions, and they'll be doing forensic archeology on them. Probably.

In 15 years time, if civilisation hasn't completely collapsed, computers will have USB if you want them to, same as they have 5.25 floppy disk drives now, if you want them to.
Carabosse e2
11 39.7k 269 England
11 Mar 2012 7:18PM

Quote:I think people often don't realise that disks, tapes, CD and DVD will just lose their content eventually and need transferring from time to time.


Spot on., I have said on here, a long time ago, that people will just have to get used to the idea they will need to re-archive at least once a decade. But if the material is in digital form this need not be a big task at all.
StrayCat e2
10 15.5k 2 Canada
11 Mar 2012 7:28PM
Don't forget, it will all be stored on Facebook, the facts and the fiction.Wink
User_Removed 10 3.3k 4 United Kingdom
12 Oct 2012 8:44AM
Just reading the specs on the new Kindle Paperwhite Increase in contrast is amazing, didn't think they'd get it much more.

As for print in general, one phenomenon that's closing down large printing presses is the things people are home printing. Home printed boarding passes for planes and tickets for events are all robbing traditional printers of work. Have seen election posters recently which are sent out as pdf to the party faithful who print them on their home A4 printer and put them in the window. Loads more places now using 'electronic posters' compared to just a year ago.

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