I just recently discovered an interesting blog, talking about digital resources for people like me, the “orientalists”, as we called ourselves before Edward Saïd happened. Well, I still call myself this, fully aware of all the Edwardian implications of the word and some irony thrown into it …
Anyway, one of the posts about the digitalisation and use of sources made me feel a little bit weird: for the author (not sure who exactly this was, it seems that all their posts are signed by the blog’s name, not the individual authors), most people at uni don’t bother anymore with real books, but just deal with the PDF version of things, and this is a good thing. And that even if they do go to the actual library, people still do what they do elsewhere, that is, sit in front of their computers. Which is partly true, from what I see in the library here. However most grad students in my department are also seen carrying books around all day, and leafing through them even when seating in front of their computers, though they also use plenty of PDFs. Are we behind things then? I thought on the contrary that we had reached a nice equilibrium between the different versions of resources available.
My personal case is a return in time: not only do I still go to the library and pick up books – otherwise I really don’t see the point of doing a PhD, I basically started uni because that means plenty of free books all the time – but if I have PDF things, I print them out right away. I didn’t like staring at my computer much before getting eye surgery, but after eye surgery, it’s just can’t do it without vision problems – whatever rest glasses and orange screens and stuff I put on.
So reading this article, I just hoped that it was just a trend somewhere, and that I wouldn’t end up, in the future, having to deal with PDFs only, because physical libraries would have closed down, becoming irrelevant. I want to think that the way we are dealing with resources in this department is shared elsewhere, making use of the wonderful new technologies, and still using the old-school ones besides. I’m not against technology, far from it – most of the great stuff that happened in my adult life is due to the existence of internet – but envisioning a world where books are irrelevant? Well, that sounds sad to me. Especially in a country like Lebanon where you can’t rely on electricity (power cuts every day). Then you’re very, very happy to have books and candles to read them at night, old school style. Like a real orientalist 😀
Update : here is a nicer version of this post 😀