Transferring content to digital formats has its advantages. For example, think of thousands of songs you can store on an palm-sized iPod or the hundreds of books you can store on a single Kindle, which is thinner than a book.
But archival purposes isn’t one of those advantages. As University of Maryland Information Studies and English professor Kari Kraus reports in When Data Disappears (published in the New York Times, August 6, 2011), digital media like hard disks, thumb drives, DVDs and CDs, are “inherently unstable.” Most of these media start to degrade with time. Even if the media survives, the formats do not. (Don’t believe me? Try to open a Word 95 file with MS Word 2010.)
We may be producing more content in a week than all of civilization produced for centuries, but if we don’t find a way to preserve it so it’s accessible to future generations, all of that great content could disappear from our historical consciousness.
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