Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The British Library will digitize journal backfiles

The British Library has launched a program to digitize journal backfiles.  From yesterday's press release:

The British Library has launched a new service that offers a ‘one-stop-shop' for publishers who wish to digitise archival material from their journal collections. The Publisher Digitisation Service [PS: no web site yet] draws on the unrivalled breadth of the Library's collections as well as its expertise in converting large volumes of print material into digital format.

Backfiles represent a substantial untapped asset for many publishers, but as long as substantial portions of each title's run remain in analogue format, a cost-effective way of exploiting that content will not be fully achievable. Most academic publishers are either planning, or have already begun, the process of digitising archival material from their journals collections and making it available online.

For many, however, one of the first major hurdles they face is sourcing the full text content they need to do this. For a variety of reasons, few publishers have maintained comprehensive archives of all their titles – current and defunct – and some have had to source as much as 75% of their archival content from third parties in order to carry out digitisation. Because of the vast extent of its serial collections, the British Library can save publishers time and money in locating such material.

One of the Publisher Digitisation Service's earliest customers was SAGE Publications....

As well as offering the full range of the UK national library's collections, the Publisher Digitisation Service also offers logistical advantages: content is located and digitised in one place and can be delivered to the publisher by FTP, thereby avoiding the risks and costs associated with obtaining material physically from a variety of sources....

Comment.  Just last month, I wondered whether journals might find better terms for backfile digitization than Google's.  This is at least another choice, but so far the BL isn't making it easy to assess.  The announcement doesn't say whether the BL program costs the journal anything (the Google program is free), whether it lets journals charge for access to the resulting files (the Google program is only for free online access), or whether it's exclusive (the Google program is non-exclusive).  But BL clients do, apparently, get to keep the digital files (Google clients don't).