Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Dawn of the E-Age and the End of Paper

It has been variously predicted that paper will go extinct within the next few decades. Enter the age of electronic money, electronic books, and of course, electronic communication. It is the age of Google, Facebook, Skype, Scribd, Wikipedia, and YouTube. Emailing has superceded the courier and ipads are replacing the school bag and the library.

One should be aware by now that anyone having an internet connection has access to the largest library in the world. It is a library larger than men have ever dreamed of. The search engines provide the most up to date indexes ever. Much information is available free of cost. Also, books can be viewed, borrowed, bought, and downloaded. They are now available in different formats, kindle, epub, pdf, djvu, and simple txt to name a few. Most of these can be viewed on smartphones even. Many are turning to ipads as the essential book reader and research tool. And, interestingly, the Government of India has announced its intention to make available tablet PCs to students at a cost as low as Rs.1750 ($35) only. The new device is called "Aakash" [See Aakash, IBN News]. The Government seems a bit unhappy with paper. It encourages uploading of documents through internet and requests customers to not print railway tickets on paper, rather carry them on mobile phones or laptops. Check this GIF from the IRCTC.CO.IN page for instance.

There are some disadvantages of the internet for sure. But, then the adage of Sir Francis Bacon applies to this age as well: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention," with this caveat, "some must be avoided as one would avoid poison". The fruit of the tree of knowledge in itself is fatal anyway.

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