No‐one doubts that the changes occurring in Eastern Europe will affect all forms of communication between the East and the West. The theme on which I was asked to speak is electronic communication. But the changes in availability of hard‐copy will be at least as important. I remember being in Warsaw in the early 1970s and spotting a copy of a German book that looked interesting in the Academy of Sciences bookshop. When I tried to buy it, I was referred to the bookshop manager, who explained that, although I was certainly entitled to do so, it was the only copy of the book that had been imported into Poland. We agreed that it was more important for it to go to a Polish library than into my collection. This underlined two points to me. The obvious one was that financial and other restrictions were limiting, in a major way, East European access to R & D information. Secondly, perhaps less obviously, it struck me that centralisation — in this case, of the purchase of books from abroad — could have some advantages. At least the bookshop manager seemed to have a clear grasp of the overall problems of book distribution in Poland. These same two aspects — problems of access and the role of central organisation — also seem to be basic to a discussion of electronic communication between East and West.
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