A Glimpse Into the Future of Microfilm and Microfiche
With all the information that we save daily on digital storage mediums like CDs, DVDs, and cloud storage platforms, a thorny question raises its head: are microfilm and microfiche still relevant?
To answer that question, let’s take a look at some of the various factors affecting the relevancy and sustainability of microfilm today.
First, let's review: Microfiche and microfilm are the same.
Well, it's probably more accurate to say that microfiches are small sheets of microfilm, generally 4"x6" in size. Microfiches were very popular as a file storage medium before personal computers became common in homes and businesses. The user would photograph certain pages of records, in miniature, using a microfiche camera, which stored the images on a microfilm sheet. Then, when they wanted to retrieve the files, they would use a microfiche reader (an enlarger, basically) to magnify the images and read them in their original or larger size. Companies extensively used microfiche to preserve newspapers, business records, and court documents, among other things, and microfiche is still popular with genealogy researchers today.
Microfilm is expensive.
Times change. Nowadays, it is much cheaper to scan documents to a computer or thumb drive than it is to buy microfilm and a microfilm camera. Stored data also takes up less space on a computer's hard drive or thumb drive, which can save gigabytes of information. Microfiches, on the other hand, can take up substantial physical storage space in microfiche drawers around your office. Compare that to today's cloud storage, which takes up no space in your office or on your hard drive.
More important than space, however, is the fact that storing new data on microfiche, or making copies of existing microfiche, may become impossible before long. Many producers of microfilm have switched to selling other products or have gone out of business altogether. As a result, rolls of microfilm are four times the price they were a few years ago. This makes using microfilm and microfiche not only difficult but also quite expensive.
Microfilm viewers and cameras are also disappearing.
Even if you can find microfilm, you may not be able to find a microfilm camera or a microfilm viewer. These items are also becoming rarer as manufacturers cease production as a result of slow consumer demand. Even if a business owns a microfiche camera and the reader, it will become increasingly difficult to get replacement parts as the equipment ages.
So, what are companies to do with their old microfiche files? The truth is that most businesses are transferring those old microfiche documents to convenient, easy-to-access digital formats. Many hospitals, libraries, and government agencies have made the switch to digital storage, and you can, too.
Microfiche copies degrade in quality over time.
If you can find microfilm and the equipment to make copies, there's still the issue of copy quality. A copy of microfiche becomes fuzzier and fuzzier the more copies you make. Technicians call this degrading the copy with "noise."
However, a copy of a digital file is exactly the same as the original. In effect, then, microfilm has a shorter lifespan (even with copies available) compared to digital copies which can maintain their quality for as long as you securely store them.
So, what is the future of microfiche?
Frankly, the future will continue to put more and more limits on the use of microfiche. Obsolescence looms. How much better to scan the library of microfiche you currently own to digital media and preserve that information indefinitely. If you receive new microfiche occasionally over the next few years, you can always scan them, too. Once digital, your document management system will help you access the microfiche information easier than any old microfiche reader could.
If you’re ready to make the switch and bring all your old microfilm and microfiche into the digital age, Imagex can help. With our affordable microform scanning services, we can help you digitize, organize, and manage your microform collections and make your documents more easily accessible. To talk more about microform scanning or or range of other document management services, please contact us.