Digital Copies

Yesterday at the NFAIS Humanities Roundtable, one talk was about the rules for making sure you get a good deal when having an outside company scan and use your library content. Today, I was pointed to an article in the New York Times comparing the Open Content Alliance partners with the Google Book Search partners. Both are very related topics and I’m glad that I got to hear the talk before reading the article.

As someone who’s working with a digital library, there are some very interesting questions raised in the article. I know nothing of the contracts associated with the Open Content Alliance or Google – we do all of our digitization our own way – but some libraries seem to think that Google is to restrictive and others are worried that by providing our content to big companies such as these there is a potential that there will not be equal access.

One point in the talk yesterday was that you should always make sure you get copies of the scans – no matter who you sign with. This is a great point, and I’d take it one step further and say that if you’re not allowed to use those scans in any manner in which you see fit then you don’t sign with vendor X. Now here’s where the difference between Google & OCA come in. OCA charges $30 a book (I’m curious if this is no matter what the size of the book …) and Google scans for free. So in the case of the OCA, I see libraries having a bit more leverage to bargain for their content and use thereof.

On another related note. We’re trying to decide what else to scan in our collections and I’ve been browsing around other digital libraries to see what’s out there. Did you know that the Internet Archive has a huge collection of digital texts including those from the OCA?? This is a great tool, it aggregates digital content from many different sources making it easier on the user to find what they want. If I had to give one complaint it’s that the search isn’t that user friendly – I get duplicates and triplicates and sometimes I find volume 4 but not volume 1-3.

What I want to know is are researchers using this tool? Do they even know that it exists?

Another great tool (that is indexed by the Internet Archive) is the Making of America project – when they provide results I can see all of the volumes associated with a title – very handy.

Anyway, I think I got of topic a bit, but you get the idea – digital libraries are neat, but be careful what your deal says if you sign with someone like Google or the Open Content Alliance.


  1. OCA charges 10 cents per page — the $30 figure comes from using 300 pages as the average length of a book. For Google participation, institutions do get their scans back, but there are some restrictions. If you want to see the UVA agreement as an example, go to Not all the agreements are exactly the same, and they were scrutinized a lot.

    As to the Internet Archive texts, it is a great resource. But there isn’t necessarily any collection development there — there are many sources, and some texts were contributed by volunteers. Your search may not have been failing, they may have just had vol. 4 and not vols 1-3 and multiple copies of texts may have been contributed. The same is also somewhat true for Google Books — volumes go in somewhat randomly and there is duplication, but their collection building is based on the collection building at our libraries, so in theory they’re aggregating what we thought was valuable, and complete sets where possible. OCA and Internet Archive will get there as the collection grows.

    Making of American is great, isn’t it? 12 years collaborative collection development and digitization.

  2. Thanks for all of the info!

    One note – I did the search and got volume 3 and when I edited the URL to change the number 3 to 2 and 1 and so on, I got the other titles 🙂 So I know they were there.

    I also so a bunch of junk in the Internet Archive, I assume just submitted by random people, but it is still great to have that tool available and maybe one day they’ll get the funding they deserve to make things awesome!

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