Category Archives: Digital collections

And now for something completely different…

Today is day 7 of Amazon’s boycott of Macmillan print books and ebooks. John Scalzi summarizes the current state of affairs in a very entertaining way in his new blog post, “A Quick Interview of Me, By Me, To Catch Up With Everything Amazon.” And Matt and I spotted this today in a full-page ad in the New York Times for Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto:  “Available at booksellers everywhere except Amazon.”

I realize that not all of my readers are as obsessed with this subject as I am, so I will give you a break and blog about some other things today:

Google Book Settlement

The Google Book Settlement fairness hearing will finally be held on February 18th, and the deadline to opt out or object passed on January 28th. James Grimmelmann has been posting lots of great links about the GBS on his Laboratorium blog:

Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshop deadlines approaching

Applications are due by March 1st for the 2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, “an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy.” The 2010 workshop will run from June 20th to July 30th, and the instructors are Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald. See the Clarion West website for more information.

Also due by March 1st are applications for the 2010 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, which runs from June 27th to August 7th. The 2010 instructors are Delia Sherman, George R.R. Martin, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ann VanderMeer.

Library budget cuts

Small Beer Press

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s Small Beer Press will bring back into print two books by writers Matt and I really like– Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life in October 2010, and Kelley Eskridge’s Solitaire in January 2011. They are joining a fine group of other writers published by Small Beer Press, including John Crowley, Elizabeth Hand, Geoff Ryman, Sean Stewart, and Kelly Link, among others.

And finally…

Introducing the iCodex:

Today, St. Stephen of Jobs announced the newest creation from the monks at Abbey Apple: the iCodex, which he believes will revolutionize the way people work and play…

With the iCodex, people can now store multiple items in one, easy-to-use package. A user could, for example, enjoy both cooking recipes and psalms, or mappa mundi and instructions on marital relations. Since the iCodex’s pages are bound together in an easy-to-turn format, things stored at the end of an iCodex are as easy to access as the beginning…

Excitement for the product could be felt all over the literate world. At the Library of Google, scribes were busy transferring hundreds of years of scrolls onto codices. “We hope to copy the entire history of human writing into codex form within the next few decades,” said Larry the Page, Google’s founder….

Go read the whole thing on Tom Elrod’s Wordism blog.

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Library of Congress World War I posters now online

The Library of Congress has photographed and made available online 1,900 World War I posters created between 1914 and 1920.  The majority of the posters are from the United States, but the collection also includes posters from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia. Here’s some background from the introduction to the collection:

During World War I, the impact of the poster as a means of communication was greater than at any other time during history. The ability of posters to inspire, inform, and persuade combined with vibrant design trends in many of the participating countries to produce thousands of interesting visual works. As a valuable historical research resource, the posters provide multiple points of view for understanding this global conflict. As artistic works, the posters range in style from graphically vibrant works by well-known designers to anonymous broadsides (predominantly text).

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division has extensive holdings of World War I era posters. Available online are approximately 1,900 posters created between 1914 and 1920. Most relate directly to the war, but some German posters date from the post-war period and illustrate events such as the rise of Bolshevism and Communism, the 1919 General Assembly election and various plebiscites….

The poster was a major tool for broad dissemination of information during the war. Countries on both sides of the conflict distributed posters widely to garner support, urge action, and boost morale… Even with its late entry into the war, the United States produced more posters than any other country….

All of these posters are in the public domain the United States, and you can download free digital files directly from the Library of Congress website or purchase photographic copies. Here are two of the posters:

Patriotic Canadians

it's up to you

There’s lots of other great stuff in the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Division–historic photographs (including Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs, Ansel Adams’s Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs, and many newspaper and magazine archives), fine prints and posters, baseball cards, cartoons, and so on. Here are links to the online catalogue and the collection and subject overview, so go browse. (An important note: some of this material is still under copyright. See the LOC’s rights and restrictions information for details and the copyright status of specific collections.)

Someone other than Google is digitizing and selling public domain library books

Last month I blogged about Google partnering with the makers of the Espresso Book Machine to print 2 million public domain works on demand. Yesterday DigitalKoans reported that the New York Public Library has joined the Kirtas Technologies Digitize-on-Demand program to digitize and sell public domain works. Here’s an excerpt from the Kirtas press release:

Readers and researchers looking for hard-to-find books now have the opportunity to dip into the collections of one of the world’s most comprehensive libraries to purchase digitized copies of public domain titles. Through their Digitize-on-Demand program, Kirtas Technologies has partnered with The New York Public Library to make 500,000 public domain works from the Library’s collections available (to anyone in the world).

“New technology has allowed the Library to greatly expand access to its collections,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. “Now, for the first time, library users are able to order copies of specific items from our vast public domain collections that are useful to them. Additionally the program creates a digital legacy for future users of the same item and a revenue stream to support our operations. We are very pleased to participate in a program that is so beneficial to everyone involved.”

Using existing information from NYPL’s catalog records, Kirtas will make the library’s public domain books available for sale through its retail site before they are ever digitized. Customers can search for a desired title on http://www.kirtasbooks.com and place an order for that book. When the order is placed, only then is it pulled from the shelf, digitized and made available as a high-quality reprint or digital file.

What makes this approach to digitization unique is that NYPL incurs no up-front printing, production or storage costs. It also provides the library with a self-funding, commercial model helping it to sustain its digitization programs in the future. Unlike other free or low-cost digitization programs, the library retains the rights and ownership to their own digitized content…

Kirtas currently has 13 partnerships with universities and public libraries to make special collections available for sale online. Virtually any library with a modern records database and valuable collections can participate in the Digitize on Demand program.

This is an interesting model, as books don’t have to be scanned until someone requests a copy, unlike Google’s random and expensive “scan first” method. But the Kirtas Books website (www.kirtasbooks.com) is surprisingly clunky, unattractive, and awkward to use, and it looks like it takes 3 to 4 weeks to have a book scanned (books that have already been scanned are available for instant download). For the titles I’ve browsed, digital files are $1.95, paperbacks are an additional $8.05, and hardcovers are an additional $18.05. The powerful and easy to use Google Book Search (and its free digital files of public domain works) wins hands down, so I don’t see myself using Kirtas Books unless I want a copy of a work that Google hasn’t yet scanned.

Update: A commenter has noted that the book scans done by Kirtas Books are much better than those done by Google. If that’s true, then I may have been too quick to assume that I wouldn’t order from Kirtas unless I couldn’t get something from Google. I should order some books from both Kirtas and the Espresso Book Machine and compare them. (I stand by my criticisms of the Kirtas Books website, and its limited search capabilities don’t compare to Google Book Search. The long wait to have a book scanned is still a problem, as I’m usually under time pressure when doing research for others.)

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books…”

According to this Boston Globe article, the Cushing Academy, a New England prep school, is replacing all of its library books with a digital “learning center”:

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a “learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by Amazon.com and Sony… Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will be expected to do their research and peruse many assigned texts on their computers…

Cushing is one of the first schools in the country to abandon its books….

This is stupid on so many levels that I forced myself to wait a full day before blogging about it so I wouldn’t rant incoherently. Let me just pose a few questions:

  • Did the librarians of Cushing Academy try to explain to their headmaster that only a small percentage of works are available in digital form, and that most of those aren’t free?
  • Before discarding their 20,000 printed books, did they consider checking to see which ones aren’t available in digital form and keeping those? (In my experience many of the best reference works only exist in print form.)
  • Did they think about the fact that even if the library pays to subscribe to subscription databases and encourages the use of free public domain works (Google Books, Project Gutenberg, etc.), that still means students won’t have access to the vast majority of works published after 1922 and still under copyright?
  • What happens when students try to do research using Google Books and discover that the works they need are only available in print form and they can’t view more than a snippet of text online? Has Cushing Academy set up any kind of interlibrary loan program so students can get access to the printed books they need?
  • Will teachers at the school be limited to using only texts available in digital form?
  • Will students be instructed in how to find, use, evaluate, and cite digital sources? (Perhaps we should start calling the Cushing Academy “the Wikipedia school.”)
  • What’s going to happen when these kids go off to college and discover that they don’t have a clue how to find or use printed sources? Will they even know that there’s a whole world of knowledge not available to them on the internet?
  • Were the parents told about this in advance so they could choose to send their children to another school instead? (Especially since this year’s tuition for the Cushing Academy boarding school is over $42,000 and the day school is over $31,000.)

I could go on, but I’m going to stop now before my head explodes. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the transcript of a talk that James Tracy (the headmaster) gave about “Libraries Beyond Books,” which is posted on the Cushing Academy website:

This is why, at Cushing Academy, where we are dedicated to forging the most far-sighted pedagogies for twenty-first century education, we have decided to be bookless within a year.

You know [holding up a book], if I look at this book I am struck by how limited it is. This is pretty bulky. I don’t mean to belittle or disparage it. I love books, and I love the representation of culture that they embody, but, from an information perspective, this is a very, very bulky way to reposit data by today’s standards.

We should be able to hold not only this book but thousands of others in one hand. So Cushing has decided to go from a library that right now is a warehouse of 20,000 books shelved in old technology to a library of millions of books utilizing far less space and with much richer and more powerful means of accessing that information. If I want to research all the references to Churchill just in our little 20,000 volume library, it’s going to take me months and years, but I can now data mine every reference to Churchill in 7 million volumes in a matter of seconds using search engines. Moreover, we find from a check of the records that our students aren’t really using the books extensively for research, anyway. They’re already doing most of that online, and, in fact, they are checking out more music and films than books from the Cushing library.

I’ll tell you that, with the financial crisis, as a Headmaster, I no longer see the point of maintaining this huge warehouse of underutilized space that we call a library. Better to free up that space while at the same time expanding by many orders of magnitude the school community’s access to information, literature, art, music via terminals that I term “Portals to Civilization.”

“Hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives”

The Commons on Flickr is a website and program “to increase access to publicly-held photography collections” and “to provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge” by adding tags or comments to help describe the photographs. The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the New York Public Library, and the National Galleries of Scotland are just a few of the participating institutions.

Here’s a photo from the State Library of New South Wales of Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison, taken by Frank Hurley during the First Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914:

penguins

Here’s an 1882 albumen print of Oscar Wilde from the George Eastman House Collection:

wilde

Thanks to LISNews for the tip.

World Digital Library launches April 21st

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), the Library of Congress, and over 30 institutions from around the world have partnered to created the World Digital Library, which will launch on April 21, 2009.

From the World Digital Library website:

The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.

From the UNESCO press release:

The WDL will function in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and will include content in a great many other languages. Browse and search features will facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration on the site. Descriptions of each item and videos with expert curators speaking about selected items will provide context for users, and are intended to spark curiosity and encourage both students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.

The WDL was developed by a team at the Library of Congress. Technical assistance was provided by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt. Institutions contributing content and expertise to the WDL include national libraries and cultural and educational institutions in Brazil, Egypt, China, France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Examples of treasures that will be featured on the WDL include oracle bones and steles contributed by the National Library of China; Arabic scientific manuscripts from the National Library and Archives of Egypt; early photographs of Latin America from the National Library of Brazil; the Hyakumanto darani, a publication from the year 764 from the National Diet Library of Japan; the famous 13th century “Devil’s Bible” from the National Library of Sweden; and works of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish calligraphy from the collections of the Library of Congress.

The National Archives (NARA) has created a web page highlighting the digital copies of documents it’s contributing to the World Digital Library, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Civil War photographs.

My thanks to the Librarian and Information Science News blog for the tip.

Digital collection news from two of my favorite libraries

Last month the Library of Congress digitally scanned the 25,000th book in its “Digitizing American Imprints” program, which “scans aging ‘brittle’ books often too fragile to serve to researchers.” From their January 14, 2009 press release:

The Library, which has contracted with the Internet Archive for digitization services, is combining its efforts with other libraries as part of the open content movement. The movement, which includes over 100 libraries, universities and cultural institutions, aims to digitize and make freely available public-domain books in a wide variety of subject areas.

Books scanned in this pilot project come primarily from the Library’s local history and genealogy sections of the General Collections. For many of these titles, only a few copies exist anywhere in the world, and a reader would need to travel to Washington to view the Library’s copy. Now, the works can be accessed freely online or downloaded for closer inspection or printing. Readers can search the text for individual words, making the digital copy an even more valuable research tool than the original…

All scanning operations are housed in the Library’s John Adams Building on Capitol Hill. Internet Archive staff work two shifts each day on 10 “Scribe” scanning stations. The operation can digitize up to 1,000 volumes each week. Shortly after scanning is complete, the books are available online at www.archive.org. Books can be read online or downloaded for more intensive study. The Library of Congress is actively working with the Internet Archive on the development of a full-featured, open-source page turner. A beta version, called the Flip Book, is currently available on the Internet Archive site…

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. The Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages…

The Internet Archive is also home to the Wayback Machine, an archive of 85 billion web pages “from 1996 to a few months ago.”  Type in a web address and choose from the archived dates available. It’s kind of like digital time travel.

The Folger Shakespeare Library “is expanding access to its digital collection by offering free online access to over 20,000 images from the library’s holdings.” From their January 15, 2009 press release:

The digital image collection includes books, theater memorabilia, manuscripts, art, and 218 of the Folger’s pre-1640 quarto editions of the works of William Shakespeare. Users can now examine these collection items in detail while accessing the Folger’s rare materials from desktop anywhere in the world.”Digital initiatives are an important and ongoing part of our mission to provide access to the Folger collection,” said Gail Kern Paster, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Cherishing the past has never been in conflict with embracing the future. The promise of digitization is one more powerful case in point. We now have opportunities to bring the Folger’s extraordinary collection to more users than ever.”

Julie Ainsworth, the Folger’s Head of Photography and Digital Imaging, said, “We began digitizing the collection in 1995. By making the collection available online, we are giving researchers and the public an important tool.”

The Folger’s digital image collection provides resources for users to view multiple images side by side, save their search results, create permanent links to images, and perform other tasks through a free software program, Luna Insight.

Stephen Enniss, Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger said that “These features will create more ways for researchers, students, and teachers to experience the collection. They can share images with each other, generate online galleries, and examine items from Queen Elizabeth’s letters to costume sketches. As a library we’re continually seeking ways to expand access to researchers and students across the country and around the world.”

The Folger is also collaborating with the University of Oxford to create the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, which will provide free online access to interactive, high-resolution images of the 75 quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Other participants include the British Library, the University of Edinburgh Library, the Huntington Library, and the National Library of Scotland, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities which is designing a special interface for the Hamlet quartos in the archive. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive is funded by a new Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant awarded jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Joint Information Systems Committee. In addition, Picturing Shakespeare will make 10,000 images from the Folger collection – including prints, drawings, and photographs relating to Shakespeare – available to teachers, scholars, and the general public through an initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Both projects join a fast-growing body of podcasts, videos, and other online content produced by the library.

Here’s the link to the Folger’s Digital Image Collection.

As I wrote in my blog post about library resources you can access from home, rare book library websites offer extraordinary and unique digital collections, online exhibitions, virtual galleries and showcases, essays and articles, collection and research guides, and bibliographies. So go explore.