Editorial: the necessity of print

As I was putting this issue of the Newsletter together, I was troubled by the fact that it's been so difficult for the organization -- and for me -- to find time and resources to put out a print Newsletter. Some of the reason is clear: when Jim Reither began the Newsletter in the '80s there were many fewer members, and there was no practical alternative for keeping Inkshedders in touch with each other between conferences. Since then, though, costs have escalated, and so have numbers, and -- though I hate to suggest anybody is busier than we were in the '80s -- it seems that in general Inkshedders, like most academics, have found themselves inexorably doing more with fewer resources, year by year. And perhaps more important, alternatives have proliferated.

Electronic alternatives, in fact, have for many people become their main way of participating in their professional communities. When I asked, on the CASLL list, whether people thought a print Newsletter was still important for the organization, among the responses was this one from Rick Coe:

I am on the CASLL listserv, and to a large extent that now does for me much of what the newsletter used to, including the annual Inkshed call.

Rick wasn't alone in this, but Doug Brent said:

I think that the print newsletter has a place, both for the reasons Russ cites and as a venue for more semi-formal non-refereed articles. . . . I think that they do a good job of provoking a slightly more deliberate set of responses than the quick back-and-forth of e-mail is likely to do. It is, however, more expensive in terms of labour as well as postage. I'd like to see it kept but would be understanding if it folded--we are all stupidly busy these days.

Roger Graves suggested that some kind of halfway house might be a good idea:

My own sense of the state of the electronic versus print world is that we still need a print version of the newsletter, or at least an email version of it that could still be sent to those without web access (or ready web access). I think we still need to be sent something (paper newsletter or email) once in a while.

And he also raised the question of how many readers of the print Newsletter don't have access to, or don't see, any of the electronic communication -- mainly the CASLL listserv. This isn't an easy question. Who knows how many people who technically have access to email actually use it regularly; how many who have Web browsers know about the Inkshed Web site, or have ever visited it? But here's one bit of information: on comparing the print mailing list for the Newsletter and the CASLL subscription list (each has almost exactly 100 addresses), you find that there are 40 people who are only on the Newsletter mailing list, and 60 who are only on the electronic list. About 50 are on both. Clearly this is a split community, and clearly the lapse -- since last spring -- in publication of the Newsletter has left some of us out in the cold -- for instance, probably having no way to know about the call for proposals for the working conference next spring in Québec (see elsewhere in this newsletter for information about that).

The lesson of the 20th century: the fact that the technology is available doesn't mean it's in place or accessible. We need to stop letting the hype convince us that the future's not only here, but passed our stop long ago. We still need a print Newsletter. I hope we can find a way to keep providing it (while continuing to urge people to use alternatives -- as you've probably already noticed, in line with Roger's suggestion, this Newsletter is available on the World Wide Web; moreover, it's composed in large measure of text that first existed in electronic form). The next print issue will come out of Toronto, produced by Margaret Procter and Mary Kooy, and after that . . . ?

-- Russ