The National Library of Wales has just launched its Welsh Newspapers Online, which will make available over 1m pages of digitised newspapers from their holdings (and also some Welsh papers held by the British Library).

The launch event was held last night in Cardiff and much was made of the fact that government and EU funding had enabled the National Library of Wales to make the content free and openly accessible. Nearly all of the content on the Welsh site is available under the public domain mark.

This is marked contrast to the business model underpinning the British Library’s digitised newspapers, which requires payment for individuals to see the scans.

The different approaches reflect different institutional contexts. The British Library (BL) is under much more pressure from the UK government to seek alternative (ie non public) funding for digitisation. The Welsh Assembly, on the other hand, sees digitisation as an opportunity to showcase Welsh content and history to a much broader audience. Putting paywalls in place, they reckon, would limit that.

The British Library also has a much larger collection (75m pages compared to 3m or so – I think – that are held in Aberystwyth); the imperative to find external funding to digitise the entire collection, as provided with the deal with publishers BrightSolid, is stronger. The BL also to provide modern facilities for housing the physical collection, prompted by the move from the one time location for the newspapers in Colindale in north London.

It will be interesting to compare the impact of the two different approaches as time passes.