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Oxford University wonders whether Internet more important than Gutenberg


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Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK, Europe, the world Every week for god knows how long Oxford University prints out its Gazette on rather nice paper. On Friday, the 26th of June, we’d got up to Vol 139, number 4887.

At which point the Gazette gets right up its own bum. Oxford University has a “strategy” – not a tactic for its library services.

It wants to “improve online access to materials by providing access to digital runs of journals” and has come up with a whizz bang of a sentence that really will make you stop and think.

“The question of whether the internet rivals Gutenberg as a transformative technology is ongoing, but there is no doubt that the use of digtal resources is on the increase in Oxford.”

Movable type certainly transformed mediaeval Europe, but it’s questionable whether you can use a primitive society like that was to make a general point about the internet.

Even more extraordinary is the fact that the Bodleian Library will make  at least one existing run of print titles of the e-journals it acquires.

“Electronic access is a service that is preferred by most, but not all,” says the Gazette portentously. Hey get into the 21st century guys.

You’re beginning to sound like MI5, which scanned all of its files onto optical disk in the middle of the 1990s, and then built a huge underground bunker in the home counties, air conditioned and all, where it stored all the paper in case the optical disks got wiped.

Hang on, that’s not such a bad idea after all. The optical disk system it uses is probably defunct by now. In Datia there is a sect of sadhus who inscribed all their manuscripts on tough birch bark (bhurja) using a very persistent ink 10 centuries ago. All the MSS are still in shape. Wonder what sort of paper and ink Oxford University is using to print out their e-journals.