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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

3.4.2 Deficiencies

Despite all these strengths, print also has some deficiencies as a communication technology.

While portable in small amounts, it can be both bulky and heavy in larger aggregations. Some simple comparisons are instructive. A high-end notebook computer weighs around 2.5 kilos and probably has an internal hard disk of 4 Gigabytes. Assume that 2 Gigabytes are required for system software and applications. This leaves 2 Gigabytes free for user data. The total notebook weight is very close to the weight of 500 sheets of A4 80gsm paper. When printed on using a font like Times 12, each sheet of paper will hold at most 5 Kilobytes of information. This means that 200 pages can store 1 Megabyte of information.The 2.5 kilo notebook therefore can store the equivalent of 400,000 pages of printed information To put it another way, once one moves past the equivalent of 500 sheets of paper, a notebook is a more portable way to carry information.

The physical nature of print also means that it requires physical movement to distribute; the pages have to be sent to someone for them to read them.

Colour is (obviously) printable; most mass-market magazines attest to this. It is much more expensive to print colour rather than monochrome pages and most small-circulation scholarly journals cannot afford the expense.

Print also costs more the more one prints. There is certainly a distinction between first copy and incremental costs, but the incremental costs are significant (particularly if each incremental copy also needs to be sent to someone).

Print is limited to the sort of information that can be represented on paper. A lot of human ingenuity has gone into notation systems for representing sounds, music and even dance on paper, but no one would argue that these notation systems substitute for the real thing.

Paper is also not directly searchable (at least not quickly or realistically for long documents). Print aids (indexes, abstracts, tables of contents) are only partial substitutes.

Last modified: Monday, 11-Dec-2017 14:38:43 AEDT

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * http://andrew.treloar.net/ * andrew.treloar@gmail.com