Our imminent move to a new building, and consequent need to evaluate what from our offices is worth moving, has led my colleagues and me to a sad realization: paper journals and conference proceedings are dead. At least for the ACM publications (a large fraction of my bookshelf space), online indexing is powerful enough, the available content in ACM's digital library is complete enough, and computer display of typeset text is readable enough, that it's easier to look things up online than to get up and walk the five feet to the bookshelf. Especially when the printed version is black and white still, while many of us like to use color for our illustrations. So all of our nearly-complete collections of JACM, and all of our carefully treasured old SoCG and SODA proceedings? Probably not going to survive the move.

And if they're not worth moving, are they worth the bookshelf space they use in our offices even when we aren't moving? So why are we still paying to get these enormous tomes printed and dealing with the hassle of transporting them with us when we attend our conferences?



Because the issues of Proceedings of the Royal Society from the 1700s are worth the bookshelf space they've taken up for the last 300 years, and today's journals will be those in another 300?

Except I read PotRS on Jstor, online. Right....

But, yeah, I've heard this same thing from livejournal user suzimoses from the journal end. The publisher she works for just recently had to pulp some tremendous quantity of unsold back issues because they weren't worth the warehouse shelves, and the print runs they're doing are dwindling to the point where ... is it still worth the hassle of dealing with the printer and all that process for a print run of 500 books? I don't think they're quite to the point of actually asking that question yet, but it's certainly starting to become an unspoken one.

The irony, in some way, is that I almost never read journal papers online. I print them out on the office printer, staple them in the upper left corner, and read them that way. But I still don't want (most of) the books.


Honestly, I like holding a book. Regardless of how readable papers are on a monitor, or how searchable they are, I can't help preferring it. And personally, when I am looking for information on an algorithm, I walk to my bookshelf, pull out CLRS or Mike and Robert's book (depending on the algorithm), and start reading.

When I walked into the suite today to do some last minute preparation, I noticed all of the journals, and I couldn't help but feel a bit sad that they were likely going to be trashed. I know the information isn't being destroyed, but while you can reach over and pick up some book you haven't read and start reading it (I sometimes do, the result of being a librarian in middle school), digital libraries aren't suitable for browsing and picking up a new book.

If I had the space, I'd offer to take all of those journals off of everyone's hands. Alternatively, you could see if either library wants them.

None: Book lover

I kinda like the book better. I mean, besides the smell of the book, I think books are quite the learning type. It is really great that you are holding something physically while learning. Just like adapting the traditional way of learning something.

11011110: Re: Book lover

Oh, I'm very fond of books myself. And I have no intention of getting rid of most of my many non-proceedings books. But I can still try to recognize when some of them have been made obsolete and not hold onto them purely for sentimental reasons.

erniepan: Well?

So, seriously, should we not have printed SOCG proceedings this year?

11011110: Re: Well?

I could list plenty of arguments in either direction, but it makes me sad to throw out books and it's looking like a printed proceedings is just something I'm going to throw out. So I'm leaning towards no.

I'm sure you'll find plenty of people arguing that, if not a physical proceedings, we at least need a booklet of abstracts or a CD of the papers or something like that. I wouldn't mind having a CD or DVD version, especially if it could come with the videos on it as well. But GD seems to function perfectly well without any of that (one hands in the final version of the paper at the conference and the proceedings get mailed to you several months later).

erniepan: Re: Well?

But then if we don't have printed proceedings, why do we need a publisher? Couldn't we simply ask accepted authors to upload their (full, hyperlinked) papers and videos to compgeom.org (or even the ArXiv) a month before the conference?

11011110: Re: Well?

We need someone to declare the uploaded collection of papers to be a conference proceedings and make a nice index for it. Otherwise the papers wouldn't be published in the conference, and we would have a hard time getting the appropriate academic credit for getting our papers into a selective conference. Also having them listed as being part of a conference proceedings helps other researchers find and cite the work. It would also be helpful if the papers could be made available through the ACM DL including getting each paper's bibliography cross-linked into the DL as they usually do; I imagine that involves some effort on ACM's part, so all-electronic proceedings wouldn't be totally free of expense.

I'm a bit torn on the page limit issue — there are some advantages to page limits other than reducing printing expenses, including making authors publish something closely resembling what the committee judged them for, and forcing authors to edit down their verbiage to a size that others could reasonably be expected to read. But that would also need to be addressed if we went to an all-electronic proceedings.