The Internet Archive, an organization devoted (in their words) to “offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format” and currently offering access to billions of discrete pieces of information via the Wayback Machine, has announced a new and somewhat anachronistic endeavor: the preservation of all printed material.
Why am I terming this anachronistic? Primarily because they have decided to store physical, rather than digital, copies of the information. And, while I am an unabashed fan of both the written word and the traditional printed and bound publishing format, I find the decision to store tens of thousands of archival quality manuscripts, in archival environmental conditions, difficult to justify. Even if I agreed with the reasoning provided by the archival team, it would still strike me as environmentally wasteful. Why not store the information digitally, along with multiple redundant systems able to access the material? So far as I can see, this would be a savings in terms of both space and materials, as well as putting additional pressure on publishers, libraries and research institutions to develop digital copies of materials currently available only in print form, adding to the globally, as opposed to locally, shared knowledge base.