Friday, October 07, 2005

Survivor, Part II - Paper vs. Electronic

This has been a running sniper war in this blog. The title of the blog, in fact, comes from Jim's article in AALL's Spectrum of the same title, which was assuring us that librarians, like the Japanese soldier left in the jungle for 40 years, not knowing his country had surrendered, must come in out of the jungle and surrender their paper to the electronic materials.

I have to tell you, I'm with that little kamikaze guy in the jungle! I absolutely see all kinds of benefits to electronic searching. Shepards and KeyCite are wonderful in electronic format -- I would not want to Shepardize in paper if I did not need those speciialized materials that still only appear in print. I agree that cases work well to search in electronic databases, because they are arranged pretty much randomly in the reporters; as Bob Berring calls it, the Jack Horner principle -- you stick in your thumb and pull out the plum.

BUT, but, but! I am coming to the conclusion that it makes a difference, at least sometimes, whether you search electronically or in print!

I am not a luddite. I do a huge amount of my research electronically. There are things you cannot do without Lexis or Westlaw, or some other electronic search program. But there are also clearly some materials, like treatises and CLEs, where you want to be able to page through chapters, and browse. I know that Westlaw has added the browse and page features. But I also know that I cannot read very long online. I can scan and then decide what to print. I cannot browse, muse, page and go back and read again deeply with any expectation that my eyes won't be doing the video boogie.

I have said earlier in this blog that I think that you think differently and more deeply when you are working in paper. This is maybe what the difference comes down to. Maybe it's just that you can go more slowly, go back, muse and browse better in print.

Also, I can't get over my problem with the new licenses. What's up with that? I pay the same amount and suddenly I don't own it. That can't be good.

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