Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Going Paperless

Yesterday morning I looked forward to sitting down and composing a post honoring the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. My original idea was to gather quotes from eyewitnesses to the attack utilizing a specific book. The University of North Texas Oral History Program has collected oral history interviews from over 350 survivors, compiling them into a great resource titled, Remembering Pearl Harbor: Eyewitness Accounts by U.S. Military Men and Women, by Dr. Ronald Marcello and Dr. Robert LaForte.
I work in a library, which is a true joy - having so many reference books and services literally at your fingertips. I have the book I wanted at home, but didn’t think about getting it out before I came to the office. Yesterday I learned that my library doesn’t have a physical copy of the book; it’s only available as an eBook. Meaning that while I’m standing at a computer terminal surrounded by thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of academic research books, I have to go back to my office and stare at my computer screen to access the book online one page at a time, waiting for each page to load.
This is infuriating to those of us who grew up skimming books, rapidly browsing 10+ pages in under a minute, with keywords leaping off the page until we find what we’re looking for. I do realize that with an eBook the patron does not have to physically come to the library to use or check out the book, which suits our current instant gratification generation. I will admit to having a few free classics saved on my iPod for those rare moments I’m stuck somewhere without a real book tucked in my bag, purse, or car.
But when it comes to doing reference work, I’m definitely in the camp of people who are desperate for a physical stack of books that I can put my hands on and flip through the pages. Yes, I’m also one of those people who look up full-text articles online and hit PRINT just so I can get away from the computer for a while, take notes, underline, and highlight salient points. I’m the person that has so many books at home, my husband gives me that look when I bring home a new one. I’m very selective about which books are good enough for me to buy for my home versus just checking out a (hard) copy through the public or academic library.
Even as I write this, I’ve received an email (okay, I love email) stating that the US Government will cease publishing their 7.5" topographic quadrangle maps in a paper map format and will publish them only on their website.
I still refuse to believe that our society will go 100% paperless, but maybe those episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard reviewed all his reports on a hand held device aren’t too farfetched after all.
Jean-Luc Picard surrounded by Kindles, Nooks, and Sony EReaders

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