Digitization might increase access while those digital records are accessible, but that is not the same as preserving something for future generations. (It's not even necessarily the same as preserving it for future years of one's own lifetime.) It's incredibly frustrating to be dismissed when I explain that tangible artifacts and physical books are inherently more effective methods of preserving data than any methods which the digital world has yet produced or is likely to in the foreseeable future.
Gabriel added the following commentary to what I had written above, and I agree with him wholeheartedly: "One of the many problems with migrating digital materials is that formats, software, and hardware are all changing at once, and getting behind on the curve of any one of these can make it virtually impossible to copy the digital data and make it readable for whatever configuration is current at the time. So, trying to preserve digital data for the long run involves constant vigilance. Additionally, each migration potentially removes or changes information - formatting which one word processor encodes can be very different when migrated to another version of the software, and after a few migrations you are often left with only rudimentary fidelity to the original document in appearance and layout. Text can be preserved more easily, but there is so much information encoded in the way things are presented that it doesn't make sense to dismiss it as unimportant. I could go on and on - this is a big and recognized problem for archivists!"
In my upcoming book, This Victorian Life I address the topic of incidental information inherent in physical objects which gets lost in the digitization process. Here is an excerpt:
"[P]hysical objects do have advantages over their electronic equivalents. One interesting example of this is their ability to preserve and transmit incidental information. When Gabriel was in library school, one of his professors told a particularly interesting story about the sort of information which gets completely lost when something is digitized. The tale as he told it, ran thus:
An archivist was monitoring the collection of a major institution when a researcher came in requesting a number of documents. The archivist found them in storage, noticed that they were letters from various places, and brought them out to the researcher without noticing anything extraordinary. The archivist returned to his desk, but soon he noticed the researcher behaving very strangely. The man would pick up a letter, check the date, hold it to his face and inhale deeply, then sort it into one of two piles he was stacking without reading it. When the piles had grown fairly high and the man still hadn't read a single letter, the archivist's curiosity finally got the better of him.
"What on earth are you doing?" he asked.
The researcher looked up and smiled. He explained that he was an epidemiologist researching the history of a particular outbreak. At the time of the disease he was studying, letters out of quarantined areas would be disinfected with vinegar before being passed along in the post. The scent was still discernible many years later, and he was smelling for it to determine which letters merited further investigation. People would often specifically avoid mentioning outbreaks in their words; the text of the letter might be something as innocuous as "You'll be happy to know that our business is thriving!" In the context of an outbreak, however, those words can have very different implications. Digitizing the letters would have stripped them of this context, and thus a significant portion of their meaning.
All people live surrounded by details they don't necessarily consider, or even notice. Yet sometimes those seemingly trivial points provide the greatest insight into a situation."
--This Victorian Life coming from Skyhorse Publishing, November 2015.