We are all patrons of the Library of Babel now, and we are the librarians too.
If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.
It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.
In this chapter, we will look at some of the changes which have occurred, and are still occurring, to the way in which recorded information is communicated. These changes are largely a result of new technologies, specifically the ‘digital transition’ to a world in which most information is in digital form most of the time, but also reflect economic and social factors.
The significance of these changes for the information sciences is two-fold. The environment in which information practitioners work is very different indeed to what it was 30 years ago, and we may expect it to change equally dramatically in the coming decades. A full understanding of these changes, and an appreciation of what is to come, is essential for effective information provision. Perhaps more positively, the information sciences can make very significant contributions to steering these changes, so as to take best advantage of new capabilities without losing the best of past practices.
We will mainly consider the present situation in this chapter, having looked at historical developments in Chapter 2, and leaving consideration of future trends to the final chapter. We will first look at some general frameworks to help understand the issues, before examining the digital transition from the print-based information environment, changing economic factors and new forms of recorded communication. We will then look at some new forms of research and scholarly activity which both take advantage of, and contribute to, new communication formats, and conclude with a reflection on changing information spaces and places.
Much of the material in this chapter deals with publishing and scholarly communication. Relevant though these areas are for the information environment, and hence for the information sciences, we will only be able to cover them in outline, referring readers to other sources for more detail.