Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Writing for Eternity II

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Writing for Eternity II

Article excerpt

I do not much like the practice of relegating notes, references, tables, diagrams, figures, charts, and appendices to Web sites. A book or article should include within its pages everything that the reader needs in a single, well-organized package. But that can be the rule only for that which is prepared-or at least conceived-at the time the original book or article is written. What about the paradigmatic example of that which is never conceived when the original is prepared: the correction of errors? Must electronic versions be facsimiles of print versions, or not? Should errors persist for eternity, once fixed in print? Or, should an electronic version be as clean as is humanly possible?

The matter comes down to two issues: cost and integrity. As is the case in many domains, these two issues are here appositional and in tension, although by no means in opposition. The standard method of correcting an article is to issue a corrigendum, of correcting a book to issue a reprinting or a revised edition. These things cost time and money, and are reserved for an error or errors that are at least collectively considerable. No one would suggest bypassing this process in such cases. But what about the occasional misplaced parentheses that dot nearly every piece of published mathematics? The misplaced "only"s that dot nearly every piece of nonfiction of any length? …

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