Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Digitizing the world's knowledge

This is an interesting talk by digital librarian Brewster Kahle that he gave at the EG 07 conference (available through He talks about reformatting of many kinds of items - books, audio recordings, film and video. His observations about what it will take to digitize and make available the world's information are interesting. He correctly observes that the digitization is best done by those close to the source if one expects any sort of quality and consistency. I believe you can take that a step further and outsource the work if you have adequate quality control processes in place. Some of what is available in the Internet Archive looks like it was "brute force" digitized, but it is least for now. I really don't know about what the preservation plan is for the content that is there. Items are backed up, but as platforms change I wonder what will happen. This is always a concern I have given the massive amount of effort that has been put into creating these items. Think 8-track tapes....WordStar documents, zip drives, floppy disks.

One major category that Brewster doesn't address is newspapers. We certainly can't reformat newspapers and make them searchable for 10 cents a page. (At least not yet.) But the added value for access and preservation of newspaper content makes it worth doing even if it costs more than 10 cents per page. To have digital access to newspaper content - that is huge for so many constituencies. So, that is what we are working on - how do you create content of high quality at an affordable price point with a replicable model?

No comments: