SCREEN OR PAGE?

This Story from Phillynews on UPenn going digital.

Aided by a $218,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Penn\'s library has begun publishing online every new history work that Oxford University Press produces over five years, roughly 1,500 titles.
Sixty-four complete digital replicas of printed books already are available for free to members of the Penn community through the library\'s digital books Web site. Penn librarians were briefed on the project last week. Those outside Penn can sample three books from the public portion of the site, HERE.\"For a long time I have been interested in books online and how they might impact the future of publishing,\" Barry said.
Mosher recalled: \"We were talking about the fact that the world seems to be divided into people who believe that in 10 years all books will be digital, and people who say, \'Never during our lifetimes will that happen! Who wants to read a bloody digital book?\'
\"What we thought was that there was too much emotion and not enough empirical evidence about the behavior of people reading [digital] books.\"He and Barry concluded that if they had a large number of digital books that were easily accessible, they could find out how faculty and students used them.
\"What is the impact of learning and teaching and research?\" Mosher wondered. \"And then, what is the impact on publishing and on book sales?\"
He said that when the National Academy Press, a scientific publisher, began experimenting with digital publishing, it found that sales of its printed versions increased by 20 percent.
\"Our hypothesis is that most people don\'t want to read long text on a backlit screen or a handheld screen,\" Mosher said. \"It just isn\'t much fun.\"
He also doubts that users will print entire digital books.
\"Nobody is going to sit and print out 300 pages and then carry it away,\" he said. \"It is cheaper and easier to buy the book.\"
He expects that scholars and students will use the hyperlink and full-text-search capabilities of digital books to find short passages for papers, and will skim digital books to find out what\'s in them. In the past, Mosher noted, if a Penn student wanted to find out whether he wanted to read a history book, he trooped to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center to look for the book. If it had not been checked out, he pulled it from the shelf and thumbed through it before deciding whether to check it out.

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