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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    The report of [print's] death is an exaggeration (with apologies to Mark Twain)

    In a 2006 talk to the Internet Advertising Bureau in London, Bill Gates said that we would be paperless within 10 years. Now - according to two reports of the Microsoft annual Strategic Account Summit (from Print is Dead blog and IWR's feed) - he has reduced this to five years.
    Gates had rather strong feelings on the subject. “Reading is going to go completely online,” Gates is quoted as saying. “Why is reading online better? It’s up to date, you can navigate, you can follow links.”... simply stating the case that the utility, in terms of digital reading, is far higher than it is for print reading.
    As the Print is Dead writer suggests, you have to pay some attention to the predictions of a man who could not have made "that much money without being right about a few things."

    But it isn't as simple as that... which is why I shall continue to disagree with the prediction (we shall see in 2012!).

    Yes - there is an enormous and increasing amount of material online, but it is being put there by an enormous and increasing variety of organisations - publishers and aggregators, libraries and digitisers, archives and repositories, and so on. And they are all using their own software or format. Add to this that much of the vaunted added value - jumping by hypertext from page to page, navigation, links to other material such as footnotes, etc struggles to offer the same ease of use as a print book (never mind the touchy-feely, read-in-the-bath issues that everyone mentions) and I think there is going to be quite a long haul before e-books ring the death knoll over their print cousins. If nothing else slows the gallop towards digital to a mere trot, there is the publishers' determined control of copyright, which significantly reduces readers' control over what they can do with a book (pass it on to a friend or Oxfam, lend it to my Mum, etc).

    Oh yes, the e-book is coming, and - as my last post made clear - I'm all for it; e-book readers such as the iRex iLiad bring the 'reading experience' close to that of print-on-paper books, and Search (possibly across a collection) is a tremendous incentive. I can see the time (but maybe not even in five years) when students may turn up at the beginning of the academic year and expect the library to load all their years readings onto the e-book reader, but does this mean the death of print? I don't think so.

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