Procuring journals have never been so convenient and economical as getting a digital edition online. Besides, you cannot miss an issue; in most cases it is automatically downloaded in your computer by a scheduler. Most journals give the entire print issue, including ads, in the digital version. So you do not miss out anything.
For most journals available in digital form you get a subscription for the digital version at only a fraction of the cost of the print edition. But the biggest attraction of digital journals, as this journal, is the space you save for storing them; they do not occupy any shelf space. Moreover, if you are looking for an article on a specific topic you can use the 'search' option and get instant response with the digital edition, which is not possible with a printed copy.
A publisher putting a digital edition online has the advantage of higher visibility to a much wider audience than is possible with print edition without spending anything extra. Convenient online payment option also makes it easier for a would-be subscriber to subscribe without the hassle of sending order form by post or courier. Moreover, an online subscription issue can be downloaded instantly after booking unlike a print issue, which takes a few weeks for the first issue to arrive. Many publishers don't even charge for their online edition, which can be downloaded free of charge. The Indian research journal Current Science and science educational journal Resonance are two such examples; both are available in print edition, which are priced.
Electronic books, or e-books, are also becoming increasingly popular with readers. Under 'Project Gutenberg', the first producer of free electronic books (e-books), more than 20,000 books, including the classics of Charles Darwin and Arthur Conan Doyle, are available free for downloading. Founded in 1971, Project Gutenberg is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. Microsoft has even come up with a special reader, which allows convenient reading of e-books.
But what does all this signify for printed journals and books? Does going digital mean end of Gutenberg's dream? Are digital journals and e-books going to put publishers of printed books and journal out of business? Fortunately that is not the case. All said and done, printed journals and books are going to stay; they have the advantage that digital editions don't have - of reading convenience. They can be read irrespective of wherever you are - at work, at home, or even while travelling. One can certainly carry a laptop to read a digital journal or e-book, but that is quite cumbersome when compared with reading a printed journal or a paperback that one can carry in the pocket. You don't have to recharge your battery to read a printed book! But, for reference work, e-books are incomparable. The time saved in searching for any keyword from a digital edition can never be equalled by a printed edition where you can only search from an index. The 36-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica can be searched for any keyword in a just few seconds!
Let us accept the fact that there is no conflict between digital and print editions. One is not exclusive of the other. Just as television has not killed off radio, there is no need to fear that digital books and journals would spell doom for their printed counterparts. Printed books would always be cherished by booklovers who never tire of turning gently the pages of their favourite tome. At the same time digital editions would offer features and facilities not possible with print editions. The best course, therefore, would be to think of the two as complementary technologies, each with its own advantages.
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