LEADING ARTICLE : New student slash and learn policy

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The Independent Online
TODAY we bring you a new category for entry into the catalogue of late 20th-century social misbehaviour: the phantom book slasher. The book slasher, as you will have learnt from our report on Page 8, haunts the libraries of our seats of learning, ancient and modern. About the person of this librarial serial killer is concealed a sharp razor- blade. The principal quarry is the distinguished journal of limited circulation and prohibitive subscription containing a monograph with findings and arguments that will have the examiner reaching in admiration for his alphas. A sudden flash in the dusty sunlight, the quick sound of faint susurrations, and the deed is done. And to think that we used to get told off for scribbling, in pencil, in the margins. And to think, if we wish to be properly serious, that this is our age's contribution to the drive and lust for knowledge, that centuries of reverence for the printed word, centuries of sacrifice to share its fruits, have produced such acolytes as these in the high temples of learning!

But, as a crime, it does at least have the merit of consistency with life in late 20th-century Britain as encouraged by an administration dedicated to the elevation of individual interest above that of us all. The advent of ease in mechanical copying means that book slashing is principally about keeping information from everybody else, about getting the edge. And it is probably only the beginning. Prepare yourselves for escalation. Stand by for the appearance of a market in slashed copies, and a book slashing credit card order and free delivery service. In tandem will run a rather less sophisticated operation which will ensure, for a fee, unfortunate accidents to the writing hands of more promising students. And, finally, of course, they will probably just start burning the libraries down.

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