Column

The Sacred Book – Maybe!

The author Naomi Baron in her book “Words Onscreen: The fate of Reading in a Digital World” includes the following quote at page 198:

“The book as such is sacred. One does not throw books away”.

Naomi Baron states that the Germans and the French “don’t throw out …. bread and books.

But consider that many law libraries are now computer rooms. And some libraries are destroying books. A professor at the UNB law school told me that their library has shredded a series of print law reports. Also an Ontario bookbinding firm told me that Queen’s University is now shredding many of its journals rather than having them bound.

Also consider that the Oxford English Dictionary announced in 2010 that it would not be publishing its next edition in print. The Encyclopedia Britannica announced in 2012 that it would cease publishing in print. Macmillan, the publisher, stopped publishing print dictionaries in 2013. See Words Onscreen at page 4.

Print reference books appear to be a casualty of the Internet. Reference books include case law reports. Today most lawyers doing case law research apparently do not reach for a printed law report – they reach for their smartphone or their laptop.

Here at Maritime Law Book, where we mainly publish case law reporters, our print subscriptions are today a small fraction of the number of print subscribers of 20 years ago.

Several major research libraries have become bookless. For example, in 2012 the medical library at Johns Hopkins University closed its physical building and moved completely online. The new Florida Polytechnic University library has no print books.

In 2002 the Santa Rosa Branch library in Tucson, Ariz., offered a digital only library to patrons but due to public demand they brought back print books. An important reason for the stocking of print books in such a library is the refusal of some publishers to offer a book in digital form.

If a reference book is available online the demand for a print version is likely to be minimal. Which is probably why some research libraries are destroying “the sacred book”.

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