The Quantum Pontiff

As an alumnus of the California Institute of Technology (thats “Caltech” not “CalTech” peoples!) and a member of the Caltech alumni association, I get a quarterly copy of Engineering and Science (E&S). In this month’s issue there is a letter from the editor concerning the future of the print version of Engineering and Science. It seems that, like much print media today, this esteemed publication’s print edition may go the way of the dodo.

In particular editor Douglas Smith asks what the readers of his rag think of the decision to axe the print edition:

Which brings me to the other hand. Caltech is not immune to the economic pressures of the outside world. As a consequence, E&S and Caltech News will suspend print publication at the end of fiscal 2009. Again, we want to know what you, the person holding this magazine, think of this prospect. Are you glad that we will no longer be using 500-year-old technology to bring you news from the future? or do you see added value in continuing to have a printed publication you can keep on your coffee table? Some readers have asked us why we are still killing trees in this day and age; others have told us that they treasure the sensory experience of reading a physical thing, and won’t be reading us any more if we go online only.

I must say that I, myself, am torn on this issue. Part of this is no doubt the fact that many eons ago my grandfather wrote an article for E&S concerning the salvaging of ships in Pearl Harbor during World War II. Someday I’ve always dreamed that I too would get to write an article for E&S. And I really do enjoy reading the glossy articles (we’re no MIT Technology Review, but then again, Caltech is about a lot more than just technology like MIT is ;) ) But it is certainly true that a online version can serve the same purpose. On the other hand, I just can’t imagine how reading E&S online will give me the same bit of enjoyment that I get out of the print edition (I think this has to do with how I read online…which is to say that I skim a lot more than when I read print.)

On the other hand, the good news is that E&S is going online and will soon have all of its archives online. I think one could learn a lot about small institutions with some pretty strong accomplishments by working your way through those articles. And I look forward to linking to my grandpa’s article :)

Comments

  1. #1 Todd Brun
    May 29, 2009

    Well, I’ve already told Doug that I’m unhappy about there being no print edition of E&S. (Do you hear that, Doug? I’m unhappy!) But there did seem a possibility that E&S might be eliminated altogether, in which case I might very well have demanded a refund of my lifetime membership in the Caltech Alumni Association.

    I do read stuff in electronic form all the time, on my laptop–usually while riding the train. But in terms of quality, comfort, and convenience, paper still wins hands down. The main downside is finding somewhere to store all the paper that I own (which is why I no longer print out scientific papers). Still, 4 issues of E&S a year were not a storage problem.

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