But that's all changed. Libraries now subscribe to digital libraries—they don't buy paper proceedings anymore. Hardly anyone ever opens their proceedings anymore after the conference ends so no extra proceedings are sold. The per proceedings price goes up as the number printed go down and conferences try to order just to cover the number of expected attendees. For a typical medium-sized conference, the proceedings can add $50 to the average registration fee. That's expensive for a book that will only be used for a couple of days. So why should conferences stay with paper proceedings instead of going electronic (via CD or Internet)?
- Some people like to look at a paper for a talk during the presentation. Sometimes I see a speaker say something that doesn't sound right and looking in the proceedings to figure out what they really meant. Some other people even take notes in the proceedings.
- Status. Until STOC and FOCS move to electronic proceedings, other theory conferences might worry about their relative importance if they don't do paper.
- Authors like to see their papers in print. And the vast majority of attendees at any theory conference are authors.