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Electronic Documents, An Integral Component of Teaching Learning Process:
A Critical Evaluation
Article · January 2013
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Ramesh Pandita
Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University
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e-Library Science Research Journal
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
ISSN : 2319-8435
Research Papers
Assistant Librarian, Central Library
Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir.
The present study revolves round electronic documents, assessing their use, importance and
growing popularity among users with emphasis on aim and purpose of subscription of e-documents. To
analyze the e-documents critically, at places parallels have been drawn between printed and electronic
sources of information, thereby highlighting some drawbacks of e-documents which otherwise are
missing in print version along with some forms and types of services being offered which are not effective
and that user-friendly the way they should have been. Purpose of carrying out this critical analysis is
simply to have more refined services of e-documents. Some suggestions have also been given in between
and towards the end whereby effectiveness and utility of e-documents can be improved to a greater
degree. The present study is more an observation carried out with the view to assess some impediments
and limitations involved with the subscription of e-documents, which so far have gone somewhat
E-documents, Online Journals, ICT, Print documents, Perpetual Access, Microforms, File
Formats .
Give the fact that as has increased the amount of books published and other documents in
electronic format, so has increased their use. One can easily see that there is a substantial increase
towards the use of electronic sources of information and weaning interest towards printed sources of
information among the user community. In the light of this fact it becomes imperative to sea as what
prompts users to switch over to contemporary sources of information from conventional ones. Question
arises, can print be still preferred over e-documents or rather how e-documents can be used in much
better way.
There is no denial in it, that electronics and its byproducts have revolutionized the sphere of
human activity from every side. Each new day comes up with new electronic offerings and so comes up
its demand, there is no let up in the demand for electronic goods and services, which in turn has grown
manifold. Even though we may go up to the extent of saying that electronics and its services has become
an integral part of human life and without it recourse of life is bound to suffer. One such wonderful
offering of electronics to the teaching learning community is in the form of electronic documents,
commonly known as e-documents. There are various forms of e-documents available to users, but the
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
most common e-documents which teaching learning community is making use of is, Online Journals,
Magazines, Newspapers and E-books.
Keeping in view the exponential growth of E-documents and the subsequent increase in their
subscription by libraries and information centers has somewhat made the analysis of e-documents
imperative. With each new day, more and more institutions have started subscribing to online journals
and e-books. Even publishers do offer/provide the subscription services in both electronic and print
format, all these and many more things have come to fore which have somewhat started questioning the
credibility and utility of these enormous electronic documents. Normally, at times we have seen people
unnecessarily jump in to those practices, which are not desirable, and in the case of subscription of online
journals or e-books by institutions, deserves attention towards its utility and cost effectiveness when
compared to conventional sources of information. The present analysis of the e-documents is being
carried out in a more critical way where the publishers perhaps do not offer the services in the desired
manner, with this and similar other constraints aim is to clear some haze over their subscription and do
bring forward the pros and cons involved.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one such area, which has created great
wonders and revolutionized human life in many ways, which humans may not have visualized in recent
past. More or less man has become an unpredictable being; nobody knows what this technology is going
to offer next moment. With the fusion of information and technology, whole world has gone IT savvy,
and to lesser or greater extent man is gradually progressing towards becoming the slave of technology
E-Documents: Since the coming into being of electronic documents mostly after 1990's, researchers and
information scientists contributed their bit in understanding the concept of e-documents, their
usefulness, cost effectiveness and many more things along with pros and cons involved in it, mostly in
the light of existing practice of printed documents.
E-document or Electronic document is created and stored in such a manner that to access,
interpret, process or even modify it, we require electronic gadgets mostly in the form computers or other
electronic devices, software's to create them and to store them we mostly required Magnetic Disks or
Optical media like CDs, DVDs [1] etc. What makes E-documents more important, which actually
largely contributed towards their acceptance and accelerated their growth is their easy access and wider
circulation is internet enabled electronic gadgets. The biggest advantage of e-document is that it can be
easily converted into P-document by taking printouts as and when required. Some of the common
advantages of e-documents are
Their easy mobility
Overcoming space problem in libraries
No need to rout e-document as any number of users can use a single copy at a time
Compared to print, e-documents are very much handy and cost effective
Definition of E-Documents: Concept of E-Documents has been defined diversely by different people. People working in the
sphere of e-documents have almost opined the definition of e-documents as per their individual
understanding of the concept. But the most common understanding about the e-documents is that it is a
document which is created, read, distributed, received, and saved in electronic form, with the help of
electronic gadgets, like computers or machines similar to computers. According to MerriamWebster.com, “E-document is a book composed in or converted to digital format for display on a
computer screen or handheld device” [2]. Similarly according to cambridge.org, “an e-book is a book
that is published in electronic form, for example on the Internet or on a disk, and not printed on paper” [3]
Need and Purpose of E-documents: To lesser or greater extent the modern man has actually lost the purpose of coming into being of
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
e-documents. The earlier e-documents came in the form of microforms mostly comprising of
microfilms and microfiche only to help overcome the space problem of libraries which otherwise keep
on growing exponentially in terms of collection development. Another major reason for coming into
being of microforms was to overcome the problem of decaying documents. Microforms came as a handy
tool to save the space and preserve these decaying documents. In a typical microfiche, we can save as
much as 100 pages of a textbook, which can be reproduced as and when required. Microfilm On the
contrary, is a rolled film having magnetic coating and like that of microfiche, it too can hold hundreds of
pages in reduced form
Review of Literature: As has passed the course of printed documents through different phases, so holds true about the
coming into being of e-documents. The evolution of E-documents can be traced from the moment
transition of print started taking place to other forms. In law of negation [4] as we know, it is the element
of opposition or the shortcomings within an entity which actually enter into conflict with each other
whereby a new entity comes into force having much better chances of sustenance and survival. Similarly
in the case of coming into existence of e-documents the process of negation can be traced way back
when actually microforms came into being. It is only because of those conflicting forces which kept on
improving at each stage and level so as to reach today up to level of becoming digital documents. These
electronic documents are mostly available in the form of digital documents in the form of CD's, Chips,
Videos, Online books, Journals Magazines, Newspapers etc.
The modern history of e-documents can be traced as back as 1920', when George McCathy, a
banker by profession is believed to be person who produced commercial microfilm and was issued
patent in 1925 for it [5]. John Benjamin Dancer, an English scientist, who is however known as the father
of Microphotography' for producing novelty texts as early as 1839 [6]. Similarly, in 1935 came the
35mm microfilm camera [7] followed by microphotography during world war-II [8]. After 90's
electronics revolutionized to leaps and bounds and this electronic revolution did not even speared the
publishing world. Keeping in view the utility, cost effectiveness and growing demand for e-documents,
the publishers almost all over the world started switching the publishing business in both electronic and
print form, what we commonly call as hybrid publishing. More and more journals and books are being
made available in electronic format and so have started & increased their subscription. The American
Reporter became the first daily newspaper to start publishing on internet on April 10, 1995 [9].
There is no denial in it that with each passing day, popularity of e-documents is growing more
and more and as such has become an important element of human information seeking behavior. Olsen
in his study identified cum advocated some essential functions of print which electronic journals should
adopt [10]. Write et al. in his study surveyed physicians in which 80% respondents believed that ejournals would reduce office clutter, however 74% respondents were of the view that convenient
readability and portability of print Journals will be lost [11].
India is believed to be a home of nearly five million manuscripts, probably the largest in world
[12], written on both papyrus and paper. Similarly, a good number of manuscripts are also in the holding
list of most of libraries all across the globe. In order to save these documents for posterity it has become
inevitable to digitize them. In India Khuda Bhaksh Oriental Public Library (KBOP Library), Patna
having nearly 21000 Oriental manuscripts is one such institution, devoted to collection, preservation
and organization of manuscripts. Digitization of manuscripts by Govt of India and various other
Governments across the world is there only to help preserve manuscripts and to let people reap the
benefits of these documents in electronic format. The digitization of manuscripts by KBOP Library was
started in September 2005[13]. Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Govt of India in February 2003 under
the national mission for Manuscripts started countrywide digitization programme of manuscripts. The
National Mission for Manuscripts aims to locate, document, preserve and digitize to make them
accessible. The mission has already identified and started digitization of manuscripts through
manuscript resources and conservation centers [14].
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
Critical Analysis: E-documents have become almost the order of the day and without it recourse of life will suffer.
The biggest disadvantage of e-documents with which we are suffering is in its rapid change and
development. No sooner a system comes into existence it is loomed with fear that a more healthy and
upgraded application may replace it before it reaches to the level of maturity. So a fear of constant and
continuous death of each new technological application comes along with its birth.
The revolution of different electronic formats has drawn common man uncertain about the
technological advancements and thereof need to remain updated about its usefulness has become
inevitable. The different file formats available with us as on date include including DOC, PDF, XLS,
PPT, RTF, JPEG, AVI, HTML and several other formats and each having its own advantages and
disadvantage [15]. And still more the wide apparent fact of all this is that service providers of each type
of application are constantly and continuously upgrading their service application and this path
breaking rapid progress has already led us to a stage where the document of earlier versions of
application software is no more supported by the upgraded version of it.
We must not forget the death of electronic items in recent past. Whether we take the case of
microforms in the form of microfilms or microfiche, the documents which were preserved in such a
form have almost died, because we rarely see any further use of such a conventional electronic
technology. Practice of recording and preserving documents in microfilms or microfiche hardly exists
anywhere in the world. With the advent of new technological applications documents recorded in
earlier versions of microforms were bound to be converted to new forms of recording if they were to be
saved from a bound dooms day. On the similar lines various technological feet were achieved during the
last and early decades of 20th and 21st century respectively and each new application rendered almost
every earlier application obsolete.
All this has definitely led us to dooms day to all those electronically stored documents, if not
made timely compatible with their own upgraded version of software's. When taken this case in
comparison to print the problem is not so. No doubt we do upgrade the publishing technology but the end
product of each type of print technology is very handy and ready to use. Readers of print need not to
upgrade their skill of reading a document, handle different types of electronic gadgets with different
application formats to serve a common and simple purpose.
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF E-RESOURCES;No Perpetual Access: - The concept of perpetual access for online journals and e-books has not as yet
received as much attention as it should have; publishers as such somewhat kept on duping the
subscribing institutions. Of the late institutions have grown conscious of perpetual access facility, which
otherwise must have been provided by the publishers without asking for. Lately, some publishers have
started offering perpetual access to online journals but the broader picture is the concept is still at its
infancy stage and needs to be grown and spread among information professionals, otherwise
information professionals will be deprived of this valuable aspect of online subscription. The biggest
disadvantage in the subscription of online journals, seen by information professionals is unavailability
of their perpetual access. Normally when a print version of the document is purchased or subscribed in
the form of book or a journal, it becomes the property of institution. Library professionals preserve the
documents with great care and love for years so that posterity may be able to reap its benefits. A simple
example we can cite to support above argument is, if a library purchases books or journals worth Rs. 10
lakh or so during a particular period, the same purchase becomes its property, while as when taken the
case of online subscription of books or journals, the case is not so. The moment library discontinues its
subscription for online journals in subsequent year the documents purchased during the previous year
will be no more available to institution for consultation. So to overcome this kind of problem authorities
need to ensure that access to those documents subscribed by an institution during a particular period
should be made available to it for use on perpetual basis, or even a time period can be set which can range
from 30 to 40 years or so. This kind of practice will ensure in making good use of money invested in
procuring e-documents by an institution. Similarly, students will be able to have access to a good no of
documents by paying very nominal charges. It is more advisable that a MOU be signed between two
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
parties about the subscription of e-documents (online journals & e-books) so that each party may be
bound to each other even if there is any kind of soared relationship in future. Without having MOU's this
kind of practice involves danger where by institutions in the event of soared relations, the concept of
perpetual access my get bogged down. Practice of perpetual access will ensure fair and judicious use of
money invested and utility of journals subscribed.
No Choose and Pick Facility: - Most of the databases as we know comprises of huge number of
documents. Database services provided for accessing online journals, books and other e-documents
offered by various service providers contain huge number of journals and books and most of the time it
has been seen that a good no of journals or books in these databases are irrelevant to the courses they are
being subscribed for. As on date, the service providers do not offer any such facility where by institutions
may be offered Choose and Pick facility. Keeping in view this fact, it becomes imperative that to avoid
this kind of undesirable subscriptions, service providers should extend such kind of facility to
customers. Keeping in view the teaching and research programmes of institution, it is desirable to
subscribe primarily those documents which are of institutions immediate need. Besides under the
shrinking library budgets it is equally heinous to procure that study material in library which is hardly of
any use. Also, imposing will upon others by way of making subscription of undesirable journals
mandatory through database package system violates the very fundamental right of every institution or
organization to subscribe journals of its choice.
No Subscription Limits :- keeping in view the growing demand for journals and the shirking library
budgets it would be more appropriate that governing body like UGC, AICTE, ICAR, NCTE, MCI, PCI,
BCI, CSIR etc should fix a minimum subscription limit of journals for each courses offered by an
institutions falling under its purview. Governing body should clearly mention about the minimum
number of online journals, which an institution should subscribe in both national and international
category. Apart from this, if an institution is already subscribing good number of print journals or
magazines they should be given due consideration. Even though there are people who have reservations
with the subscription of online version of journals for various reasons as such still love to subscribe and
read print version of the journal. As far as subscription of online journals is being made mandatory by
some governing agencies in the same way provision should be made where by a minimum number of
print versions of journals be also subscribed by these institutions and be subtracted from the minimum
number of subscriptions mandatory during the year.
Undefined subscription charges: - Normally it has been observed that various publishers or service
providers offer these kinds of services (Online Journal Subscription) in the form of database packages.
A package database contains N-number of journals or magazines and the charges are fixed for whole
pack. Since the service providers are aimed to earn business and money as such they hardly bother about
the pros and cons involved with the package system, and the foremost being these databases contain
various undesirable journals. Since the service is being provided in the form of package as such libraries
or the institution are bound to subscribe undesirable journals. Most of the time publishers and service
providers are not ready to offer services on the basis of choose and pick basis as such do not define
individual cost of journals. It is always advisable that Package database charges system should be
replaced by individual subscription system with price list, clearly reflecting cost of each individual
journal or magazines and the charges should be levied as per the number of subscriptions made by an
No Enrolment Criteria: - There is no denial in fact that, the student strength vis-à-vis enrolment
capacity varies considerably from institutions to institution. There are institutions whose student
strength runs in lakhs, at the same time there are some other institutions which are totally self sponsored
with meager intake capacity of not more than 100 or so students. Subscription of online journals is
normally advisable for those institutions where print version of subscription is not sufficient to cater the
information requirements of students. On the contrary, by routing of journals among small no of
students, their information requirement can be easily catered. When taken the case of both the type of
institutions the amount of payment required to be made for subscription of online journals is same for
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
both. Keeping in view fact the ultimately the expenditure is to be met from the pocket of students,
especially the ones pursuing their studies from self-financed institutions. This harsh fact invites
attentions towards advocating the policy, whereby fee towards subscription of online journals should be
charged as per the intake capacity of each institution.
Lacking Cost effectiveness and Utility: - Normally the notion among academia is that online journals
are cost effective when taken the case in comparison to print, but the fact remains in the end it is print
which proves more cost-effective than e-documents. The only reason, which supports towards the
subscription of e-documents, is that subscription of single copy caters the need of many at one time. It
has been also observed that electronic gadgets required to avail this kind of service most of the time
prove failure on one or the other pretext, especially those owned by educational institutes. The
supporting gadgets required to avail this kind of facility at times may prove insufficient, mostly remain
out of order, electricity problems, Networking Issues, overloaded servers etc. all these and many more
reasons hamper the purpose of subscribing e-documents which as result affects the utility of such kind of
subscriptions. Besides, after going through hectic schedule of day's class work etc students hardly find
time for going through journal, and those interested may find it difficult to keep awake through nights to
browse e-documents. The worst part of the story is most of the institutions normally shut down servers
after the day's work, so under these conditions we can emphatically say this kind of practice is no way
cost-effective and at places has minimal utility, which is not so when taken the case of print journals.
External Storage Devices: - Some of the common external storage devices in chronological order of
their coming into being and the dooms day they faced with technological advancement. This trend is
never going to stop, because technological advancement is an endless process. What is more required is
to keep oneself abreast to always change the data to new storage mediums and devices otherwise your
data may face the dooms day with technology the moment it becomes obsolete
(Floppy Disk)
(External Hard Disk)
Early Microforms like microfiche and microfilms of data storage and preservation have almost
become obsolete and so have gone the supporting gadgets with which such storage devices were
accessible. Floppies and floppy drives may be still available and usable but because of availability of
better and advanced storage devices, floppy disks are hardly made use of. CD/DVD's and External
Hard Disks are extensively used as external storage devices these days. Storage spaces provided by the
web servers have somewhat reduced the use of these devices as well. People now-a-days prefer to store
most of their data on web-servers and of course cloud computing has already thrown open new vistas of
data handling. E-documents in the form of online journals and e-books are directly accessible from the
service provider's servers. Besides who knows in the days to come we may experience some more
modern and advanced external storage devices which may replace CD/DVD's and External Hard Disks
The present work is not aimed to work against the subscription of e-documents, but to highlight
those aspects or e-documents what we should be more concerned of. Authorities forcing the
subscription of online journals and e-books have not actually looked at the pros and cons of it. Since I
myself being a devote users of both electronic and print medium so I am not pulling in any kind of debate
as which medium is better. Harsh truth also remains, most of us still love to read print version of
newspaper with breakfast despite having access to its electronic version, that too free of cost.
Imposition of mandatory subscription of online journals by some governing bodies is totally
unwarranted, as it is more about wastage of money with minimal utility.
In the fitness of things, it would be more appropriate that keeping in view all the aforementioned
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
suggestion a more suitable option can be worked out, which in no way should prove as burden to
anybody, especially to students to whom we are actually aimed to serve in much better and broader way.
Print will become obsolete only the day people cease to write on paper, because, writing on paper in
itself is a tale of prints survival.
Question arises, if we go completely digital, where will it lead to us. There are already apprehensions
that the pace with which technology is changing with each new day, it becomes impossible for common
man, firstly to upgrade oneself with technology, secondly one form of creation and preservation of
documents becomes shortly obsolete with another form of technology. Even there are instances where
we have totally failed to convert one form of recorded information into another form as the practices
with which such information was recorded or created are no more in use hence faced dooms day.
Publishers have already been dealing with both electronic and print; [16] perhaps they too are wary
about going completely digital, otherwise had it not been so they would have opted for one form only.
To digitize centuries old information which lies in the form of print is also another area of concern.
Various govts have already started projects to digitize such information, but the question arises how far it
is going to be profitable and can be brought into practice the moment we go completely digital vis-à-vis
we have to stop publishing in printed form.
Use of technology is the added cost involved in the use of electronic sources of information, while as
same is not required in conventional form of reading material viz. Print.
Despite having most of the newspapers freely available on Internet, people hardly go for online
newspapers, perhaps the satisfaction they draw from reading a printed matter is far more and far greater
than what they may draw form digital matter.
People always have apprehensions about the authority of the online sources of information as most of
time we have seen people questioning the reliability of online sources of information[17]
OTHER BACKDROPS FOR ACCESSING E-DOCUMENTS:It is always difficult for one to read continuously from any electronic gadget, these gadgets develop
sufficient strain upon the eyes and mind of a reader.
One cannot carry always a gadget with oneself to read any document that too with other support
accessories to keep gadget functional all the time.
Wear and tear of Electronic gadgets is a common phenomenon, and by the time one repairs ones gadget,
one need to have substitute gadgets so as to enable one to keep going, hence a costly affair.
Familiarity with use of electronic gadgets is also the key area, people may not be fully aware of the use of
gadgets, hence may lead to either misuse or under-use of electronic gadgets.
It is always cumbersome to use online sources of information, as the pages are either lengthy, size of the
font is not mostly of advisable size, colour combinations are not suitable for eyes. Besides online usage
always distracts from main source.
Electronic sources are sources of more input and less output, while as printed sources are contrary to it.
Fascination of browsing printed sources, while having breakfast, lunch, dinner etc is the added
advantage of print, which is missing in electronic sources.
Printed sources can be used at length without putting much strain on eyes; while as electronic sources
develop strain from the very first moment of browsing.
CONCLUSION: to conclude with, we can say, to embrace e-documents is inevitable keeping in view the amount
of research work published in e-journals. Also e-documents compared to print have emerged as handy
tool to disseminate information well in time, which in turn increases utility of information produced.
But to embrace e-documents without looking into various pros and cons involved with them is equally
dangerous and heinous as well, especially when under weaning budgets and escalating cost of reading
material undesirable reading material is procured in libraries or other educational institutions. Equally
Vol.1,Issue.8/June. 2013
there is no need to subscribe online journals by those institutions where print version of document can
cater the information requirements of users. It is also equally important for those people working with
governing bodies and proposing mandatory subscription of online journals, which actually is not
desired. The growing addiction to internet[18] and usage of e-documents has somewhat also handed
over the monopoly to publishers and service providers to charge subscription rates as per their liking
which also is contrary to the fact that ultimately the charges are to borne by students, as such a regulatory
body to supervise such services and charges levied is mandatory otherwise the growing demand and
exponential growth of e-publications in the long run is going to turn into money laundering business.
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