Study explores the future of book digitization

Most of the books published from 1972 to 2007 that Baralt found were digitized in some form, but only had “20-percent preview chunks” available to readers. And in some languages, such as Tibetan, Baralt couldn’t “enable her computer to generate Tibetan characters to attempt to conduct a search.”

The interest in digital books is apparent in recent sales numbers, according to the researchers: More than 3 million eReader devices were sold in 2009, although analysts said consumers might not buy an eReader if it’s more than $100.

“Many students and faculty are unwilling or unable to spend approximately $250 for a Kindle or Sony Reader Touch Edition or approximately $500 for a Kindle DX,” the report said, adding that if eReaders are ever required to access digital libraries, that will only increase the effects of the “digital divide” between those who can afford the devices and people who can’t.

Despite these challenges, the authors of the Council on Library and Information Resources report predicted that the digitized library movement, which they deemed “on the horizon,” would advance by 2020 with few exceptions.

“At present, many libraries are trying to comprehend the significance of networked information for their mission and experimenting with new models for providing resources and services,” the report said. “In 10 years or so, the environment may have changed so that libraries could depend primarily on digital collections, with the exception of archives, special collections, and a few print resources, such as artists’ books, that may have difficulty making the transition to digital formats.”

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