In fact, the Internet will not bring us a universal library, much less an encyclopedic record of human experience. None of the firms now engaged in digitization projects claim that it will create anything of the kind. The hype and rhetoric make it hard to grasp what Google and Microsoft and their partner libraries are actually doing. We have clearly reached a new point in the history of text production. On many fronts, traditional periodicals and books are making way for blogs and other electronic formats. But magazines and books still sell a lot of copies. The rush to digitize the written record is one of a number of critical moments in the long saga of our drive to accumulate, store, and retrieve information efficiently. It will result not in the infotopia that the prophets conjure up but in one in a long series of new information ecologies, all of them challenging, in which readers, writers, and producers of text have learned to survive.
On a related note... I subscribe to a ridiculous number of magazines. I've always found it useful to forage in different domains, so I subscribe to most of the leading business magazines, a bunch of others focused on politics and world events, and, of course, a forest-felling set of technology-related pubs.
I periodically get determined to reduce my magazine list, to save money, better optimize my time and attention, reduce paper waste, etc. The New Yorker is currently on my not-be-renewed list; although I've always considered it to be a great read, it's a weekly, and I often feel guilty about merely skimming it before putting it into my recycle pile.
Then I see articles like this one, and I'm reminded of the importance and influence of excellent journalism. So my first reaction this morning... was to renew my print subscription, even though I just discarded my "Final notice..." renewal letter last week. And then I reconsidered, because, after all, I can simply read the occasional great New Yorker article on-line instead -- or maybe I should make a point of going to my local library with my kids every couple weeks, and have joint explorations of the magazine racks therein...