Would You Digitize Your Books If You Could?

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Being almost a year and a half in seminary completing my degree, one of the growing concerns that I have at the moment is the growing accumulation of books on my bookshelf. In my room on my bookshelf alone I have 2 racks, full of books. And it’s growing. One of the problems that I foresee is, how in the world would I be able to transport my growing bookshelf to wherever I would be in the near future? Back home I have 3 full shelves of my books which I was unable to shift here with me which was sad. But the question is still harboring in my thoughts on what to do.

I read an article on digitizing your own library which was interesting. That article is a summary of posts done on the same subject. Alex Halavais in a post talks about his journey in digitizing his library. The horror for me is that he cuts his books up.

First I cut the boards off, and then slice the bindings. I have tried a table saw, but a cheap stack cutter works better. Then I feed them into my little page-fed scanner, OCR them (imperfectly) in Acrobat, and back them up to a small networked attached storage device. This is a slow process: I only manage a few hundred books a year, at best. I’ve only just started experimenting with non-destructive scanning. My hope is that the industry and technology will catch up enough that I don’t have to keep this up. (Quote taken from http://alex.halavais.net/the-new-university-press)

It’s harrowing I should say. But there are other ways that other people have used in the manner of DIY bookscanner which is also interesting to note. This method is gentle where books aren’t destroyed. According to the article it’s fast compared to using the traditional scanner which is slow and bad on book bindings. It’s a 1200 pages per hour fast. But even with my amount of books even it will take up time in doing. I’d pay someone to do it but I don’t have the money.

So, after reading through I have to say that the idea of digitizing your library is cool and will eventually save space but it destryos books in the process. Here’s a comment made to Halavais posted here which I’ll quote;

I hope after all of the effort and expense put into this project there is a plan in place for preserving the digital files. Digital files are unstable and subject to corruption. It would be unfortunate if the drives on the networked storage device failed and Professor Halavais lost not only his printed books but the digital surrogates as well. With books on the shelf you can be assured that when you open them in 20 years the words are still the same words, without active management of the digital files this simply isn’t true in the digital world.

When I talk about digital preservation to people I often help people understand the issues by referencing things like eight track tapes, zip discs, floppy discs, Wordstar, etc

So according to this, it’s another downside to digitizing. But the other way of doing it curbs the destroying part of scanning books but takes up too much time. With all that I have to say that the problem I have now will always be a problem. Just gotta live with it. But the thought of digitizing some of the important books might just work out in the near future.

What about you? Would you digitize your library?

2 thoughts on “Would You Digitize Your Books If You Could?

  1. Yes, preservation is important–less because of the books themselves (after all, I own very few books that aren’t available down the street at the library) and more because of the investment in time and energy.

    As it is, I keep the books on a RAID NAS, were I access them, as well as stored off to DVD backups, and to an encrypted backup in the cloud. I feel pretty confident that they are safe in the medium term (next 50 years)–probably safer than in paper. As paper books they are more likely to be lost to flood, fire, theft, or dog. (My puppy managed to go through a couple of books at one point.)

    Whether they will still be usable in 50 years depends on whether they are in formats that can be read or converted. I’m not overly confident about PDF, of course, and I’m doing my best to extract in OCR and save as plain text, but this is not easy.

    Again, I’m less concerned about preserving them after my death. I’m more concerned with making them usable while I’m alive :).

    1. Alex,

      Great to have a response from you. I’m along with the idea of preservation and i understand the precautions you take in keeping back up of files for your books. I find the whole idea of preservation (in the terms you put above) a good one. But for me at this point, trying to create time for doing all that work.

      At this point I find the other alternative of DIY scanner that does preservation in terms of the book being stored digitally as well as physically as well.

      I guess my problem is, Im still a lover of the book in its physical form. And that it’s the hassle with time that gets in the way for really plunging into this.

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