Stanford University is making a leap in its future library programme by preparing the launch its own bookless library. Instead of checking out books, monitoring their progress and having to have them back by a certain time and day for another student, pretty much everything of theirs will be going digital.
As in this day and age, most articles are available through online library databases and via Google Books and Scholar. Many students including myself are aware of the huge impact that digitised books are having on research and studying.
You can search through them, for a start. This saves a lot of time.
Digital books means less concern with damage and acts of God (fire, flood, earthquake and the occasional meteorite), and less storage space is needed. This shift should be one of efficiency, widely available multi-user access and potentially cheaper costs overall.
But I do worry, as books should never be replaced in my opinion. Books as an option still, would be best. However I do see the upsides to both.
e-Readers are becoming all the rage, and the iPad certainly has spurred on this market with their cool, ergonomic device (...which actually doesn't suit students specifically all that well, but nevertheless) it has opened up 'reading on the go'. Perhaps now reading will be more accessible to students who can ad-hoc read as and when they want to.
Printing costs will go through the roof. There is no substitute for having a journal article in your hand and running over it with a highlighter and dashing on notes in the margin. You can do this on a computer, but the process of doing so doesn't install the knowledge into your head. Physically writing something down connects - somehow - to the head, and is remembered and absorbed by the brain when you write it.
Having a paperless university - or at least making steps to move towards a bookless library - is a huge, and potentially controversial step to make on the face of it. It does mean they can expand and share with so many more students and other universities, which should be the aim at the end of it; sharing knowledge with others.