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Libraries have long been contemplating the implications of a shift from print to digital and underlying that thinking is the perception of print and digital being very much a binary choice.  But is that necessarily the case?   A research project into ‘next generation paper’ reported by the University of Surrey and the Open University envisages some form of hybrid between print and digital, where links or buttons exist within the physical paper to connect to digital materials.

The concept of interactive paper has been around for a while as this article from the New Scientist from ten years ago shows.    So does this type of technology fundamentally change the way libraries need to think about print?    Does it provide print with a new purpose and greater longevity?  Combining the convenience of a portable format of material with a means to link directly to digital content.  Is that anything better than a smarter QR code?  Does it just replicate the inflexibility of printed material that can’t be updated with new links or changed with new information? Or could it be a route to maintaining the relevance of the printed document by linking to the latest information in digital form.

For libraries it potentially makes a stronger connection between print and digital content with maybe a need to describe the relationship between the materials in a different way.  They are related to each other and also depend on each other.    An interesting development and it will be interesting to see how and if that technology starts to appear in the mainstream.

 

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