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News and comment from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander

Engineering information online, period?

July 08, 2010


Driving to work this morning I heard a story on NPR about Stanford University’s engineering library, and how they’re getting rid of their books and magazines. The whole article is worth reading (or hearing) but they made the point that information, especially engineering information, has moved off the printed page and onto the Web. This isn’t exactly news, but the way they’re acting on the information is. They’re simply getting rid of their books.

Their new engineering library will have a mere 10,000 books, a drastic reduction from the earlier population. After some simple research, librarians found that the vast majority of books had not been checked out at all over the last five years. However they probably have no way to know if someone took the book off the shelf and looked something up without checking it out.

Many people I have talked to in recent weeks asked me if CFE is going to continue to publish ink on paper magazines or simply take everything online. Our printed magazine is here to stay because there is still demand for it. Our readers like it and so do our advertisers. However if that’s all you’re reading, you are missing much of our content. Of course if you’re reading this, you have already realized some of the advantages of our online products.

Personally, I like having both. I’m still an analog kind of guy and I keep lots of old magazines and books, much to my wife’s dismay. Of course I don’t keep as much as I used to. Like Stanford, dealing with the bulk and weight of paper is problematic. It’s also difficult to run a search function on a stack of old magazines. New generations simply don’t bother with that old stuff.