Future of CDROM, DVD, etc.

Andrew K. Rindsberg arindsberg at GSA.STATE.AL.US
Fri Apr 28 11:15:19 CDT 2000

This has been an interesting discussion, and I thank everyone who has
enlivened my reading for the last couple of days. Special thanks to Ed
Pirog and Julian Humphries for interesting contributions.

Here are some of the points that were raised. I suggest that we continue,
not so much in terms of 'Which is better, paper or electronic media?' but
in terms of 'How can we deal with specific problems associated with
long-term storage of data?'

1. We all like books (ink on paper, that is), for reasons that are
practical as well as sentimental.

2. Taxonomic books should be printed on acid-free materials and housed
properly for public use hundreds of years later.

3. Despite this, taxonomic books are not universally available, even in
well-stocked parts of the world like California. What to do?

4. Also, for about a century, many books were printed on inferior materials
and we will probably lose this information unless the works are reprinted,
deacidified, or electronically scanned. What should be done about this?

5. Technologic change is happening, for better or worse, and it may have as
great an effect as the invention of the printing press.

6. Technologic change is also rapid -- too rapid for long-term storage to
be effective. Should we expect others to transfer all our data into new
formats every few years? Or should we feel responsible to archive
everything in one or another form? How can that be done in practice?

7. The ability of taxonomists to effect changes in the market is not great.
What is our best strategy for preserving data and publications?

8. Electronic publications have some advantages over printed publications,
notably, they can be longer, more colorful and animated, and can include
raw data as appendices. In principle, they can be reproduced in great
numbers at lower cost, and in less space, than printed works. Can we
envision electronic taxonomic libraries for use, say, in the tropics?

9. Electronic publications may be less expensive to distribute, but the
major costs are in compiling and editing, and especially in performing the
original research. Can we reduce the cost of journals by encouraging
scientific societies to publish more of them, as opposed to commercial

10. Electronic publications have a bad track record for becoming suddenly
unreadable, unlike printed media. Electronic media must be standardized and
made permanently readable before taxonomists can trust electronic media for
long-term storage. Can we expect this to happen, say, in the next hundred

11. Printed-on-demand publications probably do not meet the requirements of
the ICZN at present. Even if electronic media can be made better for
long-term storage, taxonomists will still have to face the question of
whether a mutable publication can be allowed for taxonomic purposes.

Andrew K. Rindsberg
Geological Survey of Alabama

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