(This post first published on the JISC Corporate blog, October 2010)
Since Google embarked on its scanning of major world book libraries, there has been the assumption that there is little more to do in the field of digitisation.
Yet this is far from the truth. Opinions vary, but it is probably fair to say that more than 95% of the world books, magazines, newspapers, videos, films, documents still lay hidden in archives and libraries, inaccessible in digital form.
And there are numerous benefits to continue with the work of digitising all this content – it’s more than making it convenient for the learner to access something from the comfort of their own home or office.
So, for example, research is radically changed by the availability of millions of new documents, as shown by resources like the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, which is changing the face of the study of history of London.
Equally, costs of publishing and travel can be significantly reduced by open access journals, such as the 2m pages of text provided by the Wellcome Trust’s Medical Journal Backfiles digitisation.
The University of Oxford’s Great War Archive not only gathered and digitised the general public’s material evidence from World War One but enabled new communities and expertise to be developed outside the campus walls.
And projects such as Freeze Frame collection of polar photographs, or the Old Weather resource for transcribing weather reports in Naval logbooks, not only provide new data for educators and learners around the world, but also allow for a greater appreciation of the nation’s ‘prize jewels’ within its cultural and educational collections.
Much of the argument is laid out in a new JISC report written by Simon Tanner of King’s College London.Inspiring Research, Inspiring Scholarship is available as a pdf document from the JISC website.