Ars Technica has a story on the American Chemical Society and their plans for switching most of their journals over to electronic format only. In some ways, the news may seem surprising, but at the same time, it does seem somewhat inevitable. I know that personally I do virtually all of my research online in some fashion. Anymore, if the article isn’t online and isn’t that vital to the work I’m doing, I’m not going to waste my time tracking it down when there are likely other papers that will work as well and are online, and I think this kind of attitude is (for better or worse) fairly common among my generation in the sciences. The days of the printed article are likely numbered. This is not to say that books will stop being published, but I see books (and by this I mean something I read for enjoyment) and journals (something I read for my job) as two different things. Journal articles are more useful to me if they are electronic, as then I can have them instantly in front of me without having to search through a filing cabinet, I don’t have the clutter of papers that I print of to skim once and never use again, and I can search with various tools to find what I want even if I can’t remember the specific paper. Books, on the other hand, I want to be able to enjoy slower and away from the distractions of a computer. I don’t need to search the text of a book and I like taking them to places where I have no power source, such as the park or camping. Books are more useful to me in dead tree format, and I will continue to buy them in that format. But I can honestly say that so long as I can access journals on line in high quality PDF format, that I won’t miss the fact that they’re no longer being printed. In fact, not printing them means lower costs for me in a couple of ways: research libraries no longer need to spend money building larger and larger buildings to hold journal collections that are rarely looked at; and (hopefully) journal subscription costs come down because of the savings of not having to pay for printing. Let the future begin.
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