Whither scholarly digitization efforts?

One of the authors at Thoughts on Antiquity has posted a provocative reflection on a long-standing effort to digitize an out-of-copyright translation of Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke. In light of technological change, the big book-scanning projects and the continued operation of APh, the author expresses uncertainty about how or whether to proceed.

What is the role of the humanist scholar (and his home institution, and her professional society) in the era of big digitization? Readers of this blog know about the on-going Million Books discussions. I’ve opined elsewhere that the creation of stable, sustainable, massively interlinked scholarly reference works is a critical contribution. The issue also surfaces regularly in attempts to define “digital scholarship in the humanities” and to organize funding for it. Yet, clearly the questions are arising spontaneously in many quarters and there is not yet a field-wide dialog on the subject.

We may agree with Steven Wheatley that:

The day will come, not that far off, when modifying humanities with ‘digital’ will make no more sense than modifying humanities with ‘print.’ (in A. Guess, “Rise of the Digital NEH,” Inside Higher Ed, 3 April 2008).

Ask your colleagues: what is your role in getting there and how will you work when we’ve arrived? Comments welcome.

About Tom Elliott

Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
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One Response to Whither scholarly digitization efforts?

  1. Roger Pearse says:

    Ask them this question also. Once all the books are online, in some future version of Google Books where even new books appear, will we still want to keep warehouses full of old copies of printed books, known as ‘libraries’?

    In 25 years, will we be throwing our university library collections into the bin?

    If not, why not? “Think of the savings!” the accountants will chant.

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