Monday, June 29, 2009

Lesk on book digitization

Given what has occurred in recent years, I found this text to be of interest. In his 2004 book, Understanding Digital Libraries (Second Edition), Michael Lesk wrote (p. 86):
Lemberg's (1995) thesis goes into digitization costs for all US library holdings in some detail and suggests that over the next 100 years there is a savings of roughly $44 billion to be archived by digitizing some 22 million documents (and discarding more than 400 million duplicate paper copies of them)...Also, he assumes that libraries would make no copyright payments for electronic documents, just as they do not now pay extra to loan a paper document.
This text in within a chapter that has compared the cost of digital collections to book (paper) collections held in a library. He gives cost estimates for digital book collections, campus library collections and off-site storage. There is a point when digital collections are more cost effective. He acknowledges that the costs become more attractive when many libraries can share in the costs of digitizing materials. As we can see above, those shared collections can have a positive impact on operating budgets if the paper copies are discarded and if the users are comfortable using the digital surrogates. Those are big if's.

Of course, this text jumped off the page for me because of the Google Book Settlement. Under the proposed terms of the settlement, public libraries will be able to access the digitized books. While this is a benefit because it will expand every library's collection, what if those libraries also eliminated books from their shelves that were now available digitally? It would be a tremendous act of faith for some libraries and it could be a money saver.

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