Before the birth if the World Wide Web, people used to rely solely on written and printed documents on paper. Researches depended on books and journals that can be found in libraries and bookstores. When one needed to look for a source, they would know only one place to look into which are libraries. This has been the traditional way of learning and still continues to become one of the main ways to learn. However, since the birth of the internet, electronic medium have come out and they have been used as sources by most students and scholars.
Most users of such technology have enjoyed its services as it offers convenience at most. With a lot more advantages to this new medium, researchers can find different data in just one click and a few seconds. Paper documents have long been used even before the idea of electronic documents was brought up to the minds of people. There was even a time when it was the only medium known to mankind. Before Google and Yahoo, there were only but dictionaries and thesauruses. But why is it that paper documents seem to have been forgotten and buried immediately by its users as soon as electronic sources and the cyberspace arrived?
This paper will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both paper documents and electronic documents. Perhaps readers will become enlightened as to why people have chosen electronic documents over paper documents most of the time. The paper will also be able to show which medium should be used in certain aspects which will depend on the needs of the users, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of both media. ARGUMENTS One of the main reasons why electronic documents are chosen over paper documents nowadays is because of the convenience that it offers.
Looking for electronic documents can be done at home as long as you have a computer which is something that almost every home has. Yes, due to the widespread of electronic documents and the students’ preference of such over paper documents, computers have been in demand as well, and are almost a necessity for every student or professional. The convenience that electronic documents offers is far from what paper documents have in store for its users: manual searching and reading, especially when looking for a specific topic.
This takes up a lot of time and energy. However, it teaches researchers to research well and not solely rely on instant searches. In line with convenience that electronic sources offer is the summaries and reviews that can be found online or even in word processors. This is a feature that can help users access information faster and have a better understanding on a certain document or topic. However, a fallback of this is that, most of the time researchers rely too much on the summaries and reviews and tend not to read the whole section anymore.
This “shortcut” can either work as an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the usage of readers. Although a lot of people own computers and laptops, there are still a few who do not. And this is due to the fact that computers can be expensive. An alternative to not owning a personal computer for access to electronic documents is to go to internet shops. However, such services are not free, unlike for paper documents which can be found in different libraries. Most documents that are in paper can be bought, but most of the time, they can be borrowed, which is one advantage over electronic sources.
Electronic sources are often questioned of its credibility as there are a lot of sites which can be accessed by anyone, even those who are not experts on areas that they have written about. Take for example sites such as Wikipedia. org and About. com. These sites give fast but unreliable information. But since these sites give complete documents, a lot of researchers settle for them, which becomes a disadvantage for electronic sources. There are also some who claim to be experts but are hard to verify.
The main problem with electronic sources is that, people behind the internet are hard to trace which makes it hard to find out whether one site is credible or not. Paper documents however have all the details and information essential to prove that such documents indeed come from credible sources. Most of the time there is a background of the author located inside the book, which proves the credibility of the document. This is done with some electronic sources as well, but in very few. Filing is one of the issues between electronic and paper documents. The problem with paper documents is that they get destroyed in floods, rains and fires.
They easily get lost as well, especially if the filing was not very organized. For example, books in libraries can be easily lost if they are misplaced in the wrong shelf. However, electronic sources are easier to manage as they can be found in just one click. Databases will not get destroyed when they get wet or burned, as long as they are stored properly or even uploaded on the internet. The downside of electronic sources on this matter is that viruses can get to different documents saved in a personal computer which will lead to the deletion of such files.
Also, there can be a lot of errors that can possibly happen in this technology which might endanger the presence of electronic documents. For example, computers crash for no reason at all and in one click, files can be thrown away and most of them can never be recovered. A major downfall of paper documents is its effects on the environment. Of course, it is common knowledge that papers come from trees. To produce one ton of paper, 17 trees are cut down, so paper documents take a lot out of the environment, not only through trees but also through water.
To produce a paperback book, 28 liters of water is consumed, which can be a week supply of water for an individual. These facts only show that papers consume a lot of from the environment which might turn out to be very costly for humans in the future. Although electronic sources have turned out to be very convenient for its readers and users, it has become the opposite for publishers. The internet has a lot of issues as to its legality. There are a lot of illegal downloads which causes authors and publishers to lose credit from their work.
The copyrights of different sources are pushed aside as there are a lot of free accesses to different sources and documents. A plus side on paper documents however is that it is highly accessible and very much portable. There are libraries everywhere and money is almost not a requirement. Also, the grammar and spelling is better because paper documents go through rigorous copyediting to ensure the quality of the documents, which in turn, makes it more reliable for the researchers and scholars using such medium. Electronic sources have lower production costs than paper documents.
This is because paper documents have to be mass produced individually while electronic sources can reach millions of people in just one site. For example, one book has to have thousands of copies for it to make a mark. However, one source only needs to be posted in one site and needs words of mouth for it to reach a lot of people. This makes the distribution of information through electronic sources faster and easier. Documents that are electronic will be able to last for a long time as there are no storage costs as opposed to paper documents that require a lot of space.
Storage costs a lot and so does shipping, and if such documents do not get sold, storage will still need to be paid for, which is why storage time is limited as much as possible. Cyberspace is almost unlimited as it is evolving every day, which is why people can rely on the fact that what they found yesterday will still be in cyberspace the next weeks, months or even years. Although it was discussed earlier that paper documents are portable, electronic documents are more portable since the beginning of diskettes, Compact Discs and Flash Drives.
The information that has been researched from the electronic source can now be saved in different storage devices (flash drives are commonly used today). Such devices can be placed in pockets and purses and almost do not weigh anything, as compared with paper documents that have huge masses and sizes that are very difficult to carry around. There are a lot of arguments which have been discussed. It is not easy to weigh the advantages of both medium as they have been very helpful to researchers, students, professionals and those who simply need information.
Others may say that paper documents have been outdated a long time ago and electronic documents are the new paper documents in this generation. But there are still some who prefer paper documents over electronic sources which is not so bad since people lived through paper documents way before electronic documents came to life. Bibliography Lunsford, K. (1995). Electronic Texts and the Internet: A Review of “The English Server”. In K. Lunsford, Computers and the Humanities (pp. 297-305). Springer.
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