Archives in peril: Generations of history, gone with the flip of a switch


We're addicted to free information, and we only have ourselves to blame. When the Web emerged, newspapers and magazines saw it as a sort of add-on -- a guest bedroom in their fancy mansion, where they could give away their best work in the deluded (and rarely substantiated) knowledge that readers would be moved to pay for the real thing. Publishers failed to see the Web for what it became: the coming standard of information distribution.

But the rules of economics are hardier than the rules of marketing, and it turns out that we won't pay for what we can get for free. Every day, more publications are switching off the lights for the last time, and tragedies abound.