WARNING: This article contains some of my personal opinions.
As I am packing for the trip home after the annual St. George (Utah) Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree, I am reminded of one thing: the syllabus is published on a CD-ROM disk instead of on paper. What a great idea!
I am told that the annual BYU Technology Conference does the same thing: publish the syllabus on a plastic CD-ROM disk instead of on paper. To my knowledge, these are the only two large genealogy conferences to do so. All the others I know of still publish on paper, a costly, labor-intensive, and bulky process.
Besides genealogy events, I frequently attend various conferences and conventions dedicated to other topics, including ham radio operators, private pilots, various Internet-related topics, and more. All of them switched to CD-ROM publishing years ago. Nobody publishes on paper these days, except for some genealogy conferences.
Publishing on paper is expensive, and that expense goes straight to the bottom line: the attendees pay for it whether they want it on paper or not. Conference attendance costs are already very expensive. Do we really want to pay another twenty dollars or so for something when there is a better solution?
Time and again, when leaving a conference, I have had to pack the syllabus into my already over-stuffed suitcase. The four-day national conferences often produce multi-volume publications of hundreds of pages. After the last FGS conference, I thought I might need to purchase an additional suitcase just to carry the multi-volume syllabus! Luckily, I drove home from that conference instead of flying. Otherwise, I would have had to pay an overweight luggage charge.
When I get home, I am faced with the problem of storage. I don't know what your personal library is like, but the bookshelves I have are already overcrowded with genealogy books, software, family pictures, and other “valuables.” I don't have room for several hundred more pages of syllabus material!
Many times I have left the (expensive) conference syllabus behind in my hotel room trashcan. I wonder how many other attendees’ syllabi sadly end up in hotel trash.
Contrast this with CD-ROM publishing. The conference organizers will save thousands of dollars in printing costs. I would hope that most of the savings would be passed on directly to the paying attendees in the form of lower admission costs. Attendees would find it easy to fit a tiny CD-ROM disk into their suitcase rather than printed books, not to mention the difference in weight as they drag or carry that luggage through an airport.When they get home, people like me can easily find space for a CD-ROM, so they are far more likely to review the material electronically rather than digging out a book that is probably stored in a cardboard box in the basement. Cheaper and more useful: that's a powerful combination.
Of course, not everyone owns a computer. In addition, a few others may prefer paper over a plastic syllabus. Luckily, those needs are easy to meet. In fact, the St. George, Utah, conference and the BYU conference have already fulfilled that need for years: anyone who wishes to obtain the syllabus on paper can easily do so by requesting it and then paying an extra fee that is roughly equivalent to the printing costs. When the request is received, an order goes to Kinko's or some other “print-on-demand” business to print exactly the number of copies ordered. Those who specify paper get what they want although they do have to pay for the full cost of printing, roughly $20. Those who want it on CD-ROM typically save about $20 on admission.
Everyone gets what they want, and the genealogists save a few trees in the process. Simple.
Why doesn't everyone do this?
OK, here's an idea: the next time you pay for admission to a genealogy conference of some sort, I'd suggest that you add the following comment on the order form:
“I would prefer to receive my conference syllabus on CD-ROM disk instead of on paper. As a result, I also respectfully request a $20.00 discount from the published attendance price. This discount reflects the reduced printing expense.”
Now, you know and I know that, in the first year or two, the conference organizers will not be able to comply and will have to refuse your request for a discount. After all, most conference organizers are not yet “geared up” for CD-ROM distribution. However, if enough genealogists ask enough times, future conference organizers will eventually “get the message.” After all, one of their major goals is to keep the attendees happy! Along the way, they will also be forced into saving money.
Here's a message to conference organizers: wouldn't you like to save a lot of money?