Future of CDROM, DVD, etc.

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Thu Apr 27 15:29:49 CDT 2000

Richard Jensen wrote:

>All media are subject to loss, damage, etc., and each type has its
>merits.  I just hope I don't have to put all of my eggs in one basket.

The eggs in one basket concept, of course, works both ways.

If I need a copy of Seitz' Macrolepidoptera of the World, I'm SOL until
Tadeusz Zatwarnicki finishes scanning the volumes onto CDs, because the
only hardcopies around are in locked cabinets in various universities, NOT
including the one I work at. I'd have to take two days off work and pay for
transportation to get access to the nearest complete set of volumes for a
lousy six hours, because they don't let anyone into the locked cabinets in
the Berkeley library on weekends. I can think of a whole PILE of gigantic,
lavishly-illustrated books printed in Japan that would be indispensable in
doing IDs for a lot of our Oriental specimens, but I can't get access to
those books at all because NONE of the university libraries have copies,
even via interlibrary loan, since each book costs $300-$500 and they were
printed in limited runs, quickly bought up by collectors. No university
library is going to spend $500 for a book in Japanese about Taiwanese
dragonflies. Since these works exist on paper only, they are almost
impossible to get, for most scientists. Paper may be durable, but it
certainly doesn't have innate properties that make the information on it
accessible or easily reproduced. If durability is the only criterion, maybe
we should require that all new species descriptions have to be engraved
onto diamond, instead. Information that lasts forever but is buried in a
vault might as well *be* lost.

Obviously, we can all go back and forth on the pros and cons, but the basic
idea is that the cost of producing and REproducing and distributing
information in non-printed form is such that it ensures the longevity of
the work simply by virtue of proliferation of copies (including
print-on-demand hardcopies). Your CD might melt in the sun, but there's
50,000 other copies of that data still around, and you can replace your CD
for a few bucks. When there's only 500 copies of that book you need in the
entire world, 470 of them are in the hands of private individuals, and the
asking price is up to $5000 per copy, you're in a LOT worse shape if your
copy is lost (AND you're more likely to lose it - why do you think all
those Seitz copies are in locked cabinets and not loanable?). That's a
pretty small basket for all those eggs.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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