It is something a few people might know or unknowingly may be suffering from it
In the present world, we have a wealth of information just a click or touch away from our finger tips, thanks to information technology. People have become habitual of surfing, downloading and saving literature files preferably as pdf's in their computer devices. Gone are the days when paper books used to be the only dependable sources of information or knowledge for us. And those times are also over when scholars needed to travel and visit libraries to get a book, manuscript or an article available in a particular library hundreds or thousands of miles away. Because of revolution in information and communication technology, the emergence of e-library has opened doors to innumerable sources of high quality literature freely available or with paid access over the internet at our places.
Having a computer, laptop, smart phone or some related gadget with internet connectivity is the only requirement that we get access to varied domains of e-literature through a network of search engines, repositories, open educational resources, and knowledge domains. We put a keyword/s in search engine, locate the desired files, download them preferably as pdf (Portable Document Format), have an overview of them, save them easily in the desired locations of our computers or smart phones and later access them (to read)as per our need and convenience.
However, these open access to millions of e-files or pdf’s (books, articles, research papers, manuscripts, theses, etc.) The internet is not free of drawbacks but has given rise to a lot of issues and challenges confronting the use of e-library or e-search. The ‘pdf alibi syndrome’ is one of those challenges. This term was for the first time used by Patter Thomson in the year 2015 in world.edu-the global education network. Pdf (Portable Document Format) you all know what it is, our favourite file form to use but alibi has made it a syndrome. Dear readers i am not referring to a typical medical or genetic disorder or a disease or a syndrome of health implications. Neither it is any floating idea or myth, nor is it something like a fellowship after your PhD. It is something a few people might know or unknowingly may be suffering from it. Those of us, who are at research and have to write a thesis, are badly caught in it, because they are supposed to do a lot of literature survey over the World Wide Web. And i guess many of those who are reading this article might be the sufferers of this very syndrome.
Now without making it complex, let me simplify, it is nothing but an academic problem wherein a knowledge seeker (internet surfer or a searcher) has the habit of downloading and saving pdf’s of free e-books in the hope (but in vain) that one day (he/she) will get around to open and read them (but without actually caring to read them) and gain information, knowledge and wisdom. Undoubtedly, pdf software has made our documentation and reading choices easy to our utmost convenience and comfort. However, most of the times we search the internet for hours together and accumulate much more pdf’s in our digital memories that we actually need or require or read. Later we do a bit of cleaning process and delete the old files without actually caring for the purpose we had kept them. Or if we have a storage problem or issues with our computers, we utilise many online storage spaces like drop box, eBooks, kindle or cloud to store these files or sometimes in our e-mails for a ready access. But the irony is that download and save is the general perception and reading is very rare with these pdf’s.
Now imagine the piles of photocopies or original manuscripts, journals and books in our cabinets or book racks occupying a significant portion of physical space of our work places and houses. Therefore, one wonders as to how easy e-library has made it for us to store the pdf’s within least possible spaces and simplified our reading anytime, anywhere just a click away. However, does it really contribute in enhancing our knowledge, needs to be pondered upon. Besides, knowledge management has assumed much of the significance in lieu of the huge mass of literature and information access. But we must remember that knowledge is not created by accumulating information (in the present case pdf’s), it is an understanding and wisdom shaped by perceptions and experiences.
(The Author is Assistant Professor of Zoology)