I’d like to start with our cultural collections, and what the National Library of Scotland sees as its role with this analogue/digital collaboration, and then go on to address some of the points made by the other respondents.
We have about four and a half million books, or monographs, as Frances was talking about, in the National Library of Scotland. But in reality, the texts of these books are only accessible in Edinburgh. You have to come to us to consult them.
Over the last four years, we’ve spent some of our purchase fund, about half a million pounds, digitising about 4,500 out-of-copyright books. Some we thought may be popular because they’re linked to the genealogy industry or other high demand areas, but 800 were in Gaelic so we didn’t expect a big audience for them.
We’ve been working with the Internet Archive as a contractor and a partner, and that’s been critical to what’s happened for us. When we put the digitised books up on our own website, not that many people use them. If we put them up on the Internet Archive website, which we do as a natural part of our workflow, our 4,500 books have now had about a million downloads.
My conclusion is that CREATe is coming at a critical moment in time – I have digitised 0.1% of my content and it is now generating three times as much business as the other 99.9% which is still locked in print.
By comparison, in the four years that we’ve been doing this project, we have a pool of 4.5 million books in the library, and in the reading room we’ve issued about 350,000 books to about 8,000 different readers.
Our most popular book in the Internet Archive is a grammar and dictionary of the Malay language. It was published in 1852, and it’s currently been downloaded about 8,000 times. Even more extraordinarily, we don’t have the most popular one, that goes to the University of California – who have given away 12,000 downloads of one from the 1880s. This proves that there’s money in old rope. My conclusion is that CREATe is coming at a critical moment in time – I have digitised 0.1% of my content and it is now generating three times as much business as the other 99.9% which is still locked in print. I believe this will be replicated across film, across journals and across other things where we can operate within the law.
In future I want to use my purchase funds to get my newly-digitised content out into the world, either on a creative commons licensed or for free. The reality is that I currently buy content which I can only provide access to within Library premises in Edinburgh. This is not good enough. My audience is not just in Edinburgh, it is the whole of Scotland and potentially the world.
The whole change in the way we think about the digital and the analogue will completely revolutionise my business model at the National Library. Everything we’ve done to develop the national collection over the last 300 years is still valid, but it’s not the business now and it won’t be business in the future.
To conclude, coming back to Charlie in terms of the writing he has done, the role that institutions have is in the preservation of content. The National Library of Scotland has traditionally preserved the print version. In future larger libraries and groups will have a significant role in ensuring the digital preservation of content, and in making sure that what is written, whether it’s in the digital or analogue form, continues to be available in the future.