This week I went to Cambridge University Library to obtain translations of some patristic quotations of Matthew 27:25 and Acts 4:10 for the post on the subject. Instead of photocopying them, I used my smartphone and took pictures.
I wasn’t sorry to avoid the charge of 15c per page! On the other hand, trying to balance open a tightly-bound volume of the Sources Chretiennes with Hilary of Poitiers’ Commentary on Matthew distracted me so much that I photographed the wrong pages! Also I had turned off the “click” sound, so as not to distract my fellow students, with the result that some pages that I thought I photographed were, in fact, not copied. Finally, instead of a few photocopies, I ended up with 500mb of photos, which is a little rich even for my hard disk. So … an experiment with mixed results.
I also noted that my library card was about to expire. Renewing it involves going to the office, queuing, presenting various testimonials, evidence of identity, etc. Which, considering that I have kept renewing the ticket every year or six months for almost 20 years, is rather silly. It’s also a burden: I can find a lot of material online with a couple of clicks; but to access this offline material, I have to jump through hoops.
One news story I saw this week, which is rather less welcome, is that UK publishers have obtained a High Court order to force ISPs to block access to 9 book-pirate sites. These contain a lot of academic books, and, for those of us without university access, they are invaluable. The practical effect of this order, made in order to safeguard supposed lost publishing industry profits, is to decrease the access to learning for UK citizens.
In the UK the public in general is hardly aware of the riches available online, because so much of it is inaccessible as a result of such litigation. Nor do the politicians seem to know either. It is sad to see useful material being lost. After all, what academic book is less than $80? How many non-scholars ever buy them?