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4. Implications of LSDIs for Book Collections

The implications of LSDIs go beyond daily routines and digital preservation responsibilities to other areas within a library’s operation. This section highlights the potential impact of LSDIs on book collections to demonstrate the ripple effect of mass digitization efforts.

4.1 Pressure for Relieving Space

Many research libraries face serious space shortages. In response to changes in library use, they are reducing the amount of space devoted to storing print materials in order to expand the user study and research areas. Will LSDIs affect libraries’ decisions about how to use their physical space and how best to deal with their book collections? For instance, will there be more pressure from university or library administrations to eliminate duplicate copies of books or to store them off site? Also, what will happen to print originals after they are reformatted? In the era of microfilming, originals were sometimes discarded after being filmed. Likewise, it may be tempting to use the acquisition of a digital surrogate as a justification to deaccession original print material. What would be the long-term implications of discarding print copies on the basis of the existence of digital versions that may be incomplete or below-standard image quality?

Much of world’s scholarly literature is not yet available in digital format. Consequently, research libraries continue to invest substantial amounts of funds in acquiring, cataloging, and housing print collections. This not only requires space but also strains collection development.

The precedent set by journal literature is an interesting one to analyze in regard to its potential implications for other library materials. According to a 2006 OCLC study, ARL members are rapidly accepting electronic format as the dominant medium for journal collections.84 From 2002 to 2006, subscriptions to journals in print format decreased by 32 percent, whereas journals obtained in electronic format increased by 34 percent. As libraries move into a predominantly electronic-subscription environment, concerns about ownership and perpetual access to journal literature are growing.

4.2 Impact on Traditional Preservation and Conservation Programs

Preservation departments within libraries are responsible for the preservation of collections. This includes broad risk assessment and policy formulation and activities ranging from disaster preparedness and environmental control to single-item conservation treatment. Digital reformatting and digital preservation are under the purview of some preservation departments. Institutions vary as to how much of their “traditional” preservation activities are funded by grants from public and private agencies, but some institutions rely heavily on external funding. The vast collections of digital resources made available by the LSDIs raise questions about how institutions will set priorities and allocate funds to support traditional preservation activities. Four issues come to mind:

  1. Google argues that because only limited information will be available through snippets provided for in-copyright materials, book sales and library circulation of digitized material are likely to increase. According to an Atlantic Monthly article, Google is less likely to destroy the book business than to “slingshot it” into the 21st century.85 If this is true, library circulation probably will increase, especially through interlibrary loan. Early evidence indicates that there are likely to be increases in usage. During a discussion at the 2007 ALA Annual Conference, some Google library partners reported an increase in interlibrary loan requests generated by use of Google Book Search.86 Although broadening the reach and use of collections is desirable, such an increase in borrowing would also expose more books to wear and tear as they move among libraries. (Interlibrary lending usually subjects books to more damage and risk of loss than an ordinary circulation does.) In turn, this will require strengthening the preservation and conservation programs that maintain the artifactual integrity of materials. According to the 2004–2005 ARL Preservation Statistics, total preservation expenditures continue to be stagnant (i.e., not to keep up with inflation), which raises concerns about the ability of libraries to expand and fund these operations.
  2. A number of funding agencies make grants available for preservation surveys, conservation treatment, and reformatting. Some of these funders may question the value of maintaining and preserving book collections that are available in digital format. If the value of preserving such print publications is not articulated and justified, funders may shift their priorities. One justification for retaining print copies is that they can be considered backups or “leaf masters”87 for the digital copies. That is, when a page has been scanned poorly or a page is missing from the digital version, the original print copy can be referenced to remedy or elucidate the concern. A trend that strengthens the feasibility of this backup role of print is the increasing use of what is commonly called “off-site storage.” Such spaces might more appropriately be referred to as “collections preservation centers” since the environmental and security conditions in such facilities are much better suited to the longevity of paper than are conditions in most libraries, where patron comfort must be taken into account.
  3. The process of pulling from shelves, shipping, and digitizing in LSDIs puts the original at risk. Although there are no indications that current bound-volume scanning technologies are inherently damaging, there has been no systematic study of the impact of digitization on the physical condition of book collections. At the aforementioned 2007 ALA Annual Conference, a panel composed of Google Book Search participating libraries noted that damaged books are one of the challenges they face. Most of the institutions responding to the LSDI preservation survey indicated, however, that they have experienced no or minimal damage. The condition of materials prior to digitization will influence the risk of damage. If there is damage during digitization, there may be disagreement as to whether it was caused by improper handling or by years of storage in suboptimal conditions.
  4. Since digitization was introduced to the library community in the early 1990s, librarians have discussed the future of the book as artifact and its contributions to the intellectual value that are difficult to capture through digital reformatting, such as the historical context provided by binding, watermarks, and chemical composition of ink. In 2001, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) convened a task force to investigate the role of the artifact in libraries and archives.88The group concluded that preservation budgets often fail to meet the preservation needs of artifacts. Members projected that increasing attention to digital reformatting “has the potential to eclipse the preservation needs of artifacts and to preoccupy the attention of the research community.” Their main recommendation was to establish regional repositories to house and properly treat low-use print matter. A related suggestion was to convene a national committee to investigate the establishment of archival repositories that would retain a “last, best copy” of U.S. imprints. Both topics have been discussed over the past several years, without significant progress. Recent activities surrounding the North Atlantic Storage Trust, however, do show promise.

4.3 Print-on-Demand Books

Although today’s users typically prefer to search for resources online, recent surveys and anecdotal evidence suggest that many users continue to favor a print version for reading and studying—especially for longer materials such as books.89 Some LSDI libraries are exploring the possibility of offering print-on-demand (PoD) services (especially for public domain materials) in cases where the individual contract allows it.

Although PoD issues do not relate directly to the main topic of this paper, they offer a good example of how today’s decisions will affect future library programs.90 Image quality and consistency are important factors in repurposing digitized content in support of a PoD service. Derivatives created for printing purposes have different technical requirements than do resources created to be viewed online; in the case of the former, there is heavy reliance on a high-quality master. Although imaging requirements used by LSDIs may be “good enough” for online viewing, and even for some archival purposes, inconsistent practices and lack of quality control may impede the launch of a successful PoD program.

Two LSDI libraries, the University of Michigan and Cornell University, are already using the PoD service provided by BookSurge, a subsidiary of Amazon, to make digital content created through institutional efforts available for online ordering. In June 2007, BookSurge and Kirtas technologies announced a collaboration with Emory University, the University of Maine, the Toronto Public Library, and the Cincinnati Public Library to digitize rare and inaccessible books from their collections and to distribute them through BookSurge’s PoD service.91 According to a press release from Emory, the digitization and digital publishing model allows the library to retain control of the digitized versions of its collections.92 This includes exposing the full-text content for indexing by various search engines, rather than just the partnering Web company.


84 Chandra Prabha. 2007. “Shifting from Print to Electronic Journals in ARL University Libraries.” Serials Review 33(1) [March]: 4-13.

85 Michael Hirschorn. 2007. “The Hapless Seed.” Atlantic Monthly 299(5): 134-139.

86 “The ‘Google Five’ Describe Progress, Challenges.” 2007. Library Journal Academic Newswire (June). Available at

87 Gary Frost, university conservator at the University of Iowa Libraries, introduced the leaf master idea, which implies a continuing role for originals within access and delivery systems. He argues that screen presentation of print serves a utility function by enhancing access but does not preclude the need to keep print originals available for consultation. More information on leaf mastering can be found at

88The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections. 2001. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources. Available at

89 According to a study at the University of Denver, most of the problems people perceive with electronic books are related to the difficulty of reading large amounts of text on the screen. The study concludes that the fact that respondents are much more likely to read portions of an electronic book than the whole could be due to the difficulties reported with reading large amounts of text on a computer screen. Michael Levine-Clark. 2006. “Electronic Book Usage: A Survey at the University of Denver.” Libraries and the Academy 6(3): 285-299.

90 The information about the print-on-demand privileges provided to LSDI libraries for the digital copies that will be provided to them is considered confidential and is often included in contracts under a nondisclosure clause.

91 BookSurge, an Amazon Group, and Kirtas Collaborate to Preserve and Distribute Historic Archival Books. June 21, 2007. Press release. Available at

92 Emory Partnership Breaks New Ground in Print-On-Demand Books. June 6, 2007. Press release. Available at

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