The library online

Writing history evokes images of shuffling dusty papers, and pencils scribbling over yellow pads. Yet, history is a technology intensive activity as any other academic field. A recent New Yorker article makes this point neatly, recalling how cataloguing, note taking and referencing are devices to manage the flood of information.

It is now common knowledge that a new kind of library is in the making. Google has publicized its desire to scan the major libraries of the world and make books electronic. You can search titles and text in Google Book Search, and despite being a blunt tool prone to error, it testifies to the decreasing cost of bibliometrics. To turn books into strings of data has never been easier. The same is happening to newsprint, the New York Times has its archives available for public view.

The new media promises ease and access, if one knows the way around the new frontier lands. Fortunately, there is D-Lib an online magazine focused on the subject of digital libraries. Demand creates supply?

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One thought on “The library online

  1. In Dutch newspapers a discussion is currently entertained on the question how to digitalize all (yes all) books that have been published in the Dutch language up to 1950. Scanning these books is costly, and so some influential people at the Royal Ducth Library propose to cut up one copy of each book (when more than one exists) so that it can be scanned google-wise quickly and at low cost. However, the opponents argue, this technique is still not very reliable. Quick, automiticed scanning apprently still has an error rate of 0.1-1.0%. But of course, a silent revolution it is.

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