Death of Documents

Map Location
F,G, 2
Thread Location
Page 44

Jocelyn Clark

Conversation Starters

  1. What kind of tools are we using to store memories and communicate ideas?
  2. As our recorded world becomes more fluid, how do we capture snapshots of it for documentation, memories, or communication of ideas?
  3. What is a document anyway?
  4. Is the document dying or are certain characteristics of the document dying?

Related Artifacts


What is a document and is it even a useful definition? Two theoretical views of the definition of a “document” are found in the following sources:

Frohmann, B. (2009). Revisiting “What is a document?” Journal of Documentation, 65(2), 291–303.

Stone, D. (1997). What is a “document”? Journal of the American Society of Information Science, 48(9), 804.

The Changing World of Publishing

There is a lot of discussion in the world about the decline of newspaper publishing, the decline of the independent bookstore, and the growth of self-publishing on blogs, wikis, social media, and bulletin boards. Many journal articles are now accessed more frequently online through fee-based databases. In addition, the world of direct access publishing is increasing.

Decline of Newspapers

kxan. (2009, April 17). Paul Steiger addresses the future of newspapers. Video posted to

Perez-Pena, R. (2008, October 28). Newspaper circulation continues to decline rapidly. New York Times. Retrieved from

Who killed the newspaper? (2006, August 24). The Economist. Retrieved from

Change in Publishing

Rich, M. (2009, January 28). Self-publishers flourish as writers pay the tab. New York Times. Retrieved from

Predictions of the Death of the Book or the Ultimate Failure of the eBook

There seem to be dueling theories about the ultimate success or failure of the paperbased book as an artifact. Will the paper or the ebook win out in the end? Does it matter? How does the business model of publishers change as the format changes?

Gomez, J. (2008). Print is dead: Books in our digital age. London: Macmillan.

Contends that printed books will be replaced by digital books and that book distributors and readers should actively support the transformation by encouraging digital book creation and the standards required for storage and delivery.

jlaccetti (2007, April 18). Digitise or die: Margaret Atwood. Video posted to

Levy, D. M. (2001). Scrolling forward: Making sense of documents in the digital age. New York: Arcade.

Marsh, S. D. (n.d.). The death of the book. Retrieved from

Weinberger, D. (1998, March 19). The death of documents and the end of doneness. Journal of the Hyperlinked Ogranization. Retrieved from

Changing Permanence

Documents that exist in the digital world can be much less permanent than paperbased documents. Related concepts include: perpetual beta, living (or evergreen) documents, and continuous improvement. All of these ideas point to the concept of impermanence. Content that exists in a particular form one day may not exist in that format the next day. Efforts to increase permanence such that accessibility to ideas is maintained require that time is stopped occasionally such that a snapshot can be kept as a record. More important is that today’s library cataloguing routines are difficult to apply to documents that won’t stand still. How do you catalog an artifact that won’t remain in existence?

Bowker, G. C. (2005). Memory practices in the sciences (Inside technology). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Internet Archives: Wayback Machine. Retrieved from

Business Document Management Systems

Although paper books, newspapers, and other printed material may be decreasing, the business world is turning to digital document and content management systems to augment their communication and documentation processes. For years, there have been Paperless Society/Paperless Office utopia theories. In contrast, requirements for record-keeping seem to be increasing.

Ragnet, F. (n.d.). The future of documents. Retrieved from

Document Management Software for Project Managers and Business Examples

Ademero. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Knowledge tree. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Other Topics of Interest Relative to Document Management in the Business World

Content management, digital documentation, knowledge management systems, information delivery systems, and more.

Increasing Access to Digital Resources and Digital Archives

Services like Google books and the Project Gutenberg are increasing digital access to archival materials at the same time that current book publishing is decreasing. Access to these documents is no longer facilitated by or dependent on the library archives. In contrast, these archives are now partly dependent on commercial ventures, which have both benefits and costs.

American Libraries. (n.d.). In Internet Archive. Retrieved from

Google Books. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Main Page. (n.d.) In ProjectGutenberg wiki. Retrieved from

Materiality of Communicative Practices

Researchers in communication theory are also dealing with the impact of technology on established communication practices. The idea of “boundary objects” is explored.

Osterlund, C. (2008). The materiality of communicative practices: The boundaries and objects of an emergency room genre. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 20(1), 7–40. Retrieved from

  • Kaylin Boehme

    The document as a static resource is probably on the endangered species list – people create and destroy information constantly in all manner of electronic formats. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (sometimes the bad, wrong, or poorly worded content simply gets weeded out), but it becomes a challenge for those wishing to preserve electronic information.