Emory Report
June 11, 2007
Volume 59, Number 32

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June 11, 2007
Print-on-demand books boosted in partnership

by carol clark

Emory is launching a new model for digital scholarship through a partnership with Kirtas Technologies Inc., a maker of cutting-edge digital scanning technology.

The partnership will enable Emory to apply automated scanning technology to thousands of rare, out-of-print books in its research collections, making it possible for scholars to browse the pages of these books on the Internet or order bound, printed copies via a fast, affordable print-on-demand service. The project is limited to materials in the public domain.

“We believe that mass digitization and print-on-demand publishing is an important new model for digital scholarship that is going to revolutionize the management of academic materials,” said Martin Halbert, director for digital programs and systems at Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Library. “Information will no longer be lost in the mists of time when books go out of print. This is a way of opening up the past to the future.”

Woodruff Library is one of the premier research libraries in the United States, with extensive holdings in the humanities, including many rare and special collections. To increase accessibility to these aging materials, and ensure their preservation, the University purchased a Kirtas robotic book scanner, which can digitize as many as 50 books per day, transforming the pages from each volume into an Adobe Portable Document Format. The PDF files will be uploaded to a Web site where scholars can access them. If a scholar wishes to order a bound, printed copy of a digitized book, a few clicks of the mouse will prompt Amazon.com to print and ship the requested volume.

Emory will receive compensation from the sale of digitized copies, although Halbert stressed that the print-on-demand feature is not intended to generate a profit, but simply help the library recoup some of its costs in making out-of-print materials available.

Materials in Emory’s collections that are rare and unique to the history of the University and the South are currently being digitized as part of a pilot project. The University expects the print-on-demand feature for these targeted materials to become available by the fall semester. Altogether, Emory houses more than 200,000 out-of-print volumes that were published before 1923.

Emory was already on the leading edge of digital scholarship, as one of the first universities to establish a major online peer-review journal. In the two years of its existence, Emory’s Internet journal Southern Spaces (southernspaces.org) has grown into a dominant force in the Southern studies field, attracting scholars from around the world to its forums and interactive, multi-media features.

“Mass digitization and print-on-demand capabilities represent another quantum leap forward for digital scholarship at Emory, opening up whole new arenas of possibilities,” Halbert said.

In addition to making out-of-print books more accessible, Emory librarians envision the University’s mass digitization and print-on-demand capabilities expanding the range of more current scholarly materials.

“The Emory libraries plan to use the program to support an array of scholarly publishing needs of our campus,” said Rick Luce, vice provost for University libraries. “We will be providing new opportunities for our faculty and students to disseminate their work, if they choose to do so, under the Emory banner.”

As chair of the American Librarian Association’s Digital Library Technologies Interest Group, Halbert will be leading a panel in Washington, D.C., on June 24, titled, “Libraries as Digital Publishers: A New Model for Scholarly Access to Information.”