The past is never so important as when it's in danger of being devoured by time. For antiquarian libraries around the world, age and the environment are causing damage that many facilities are using as proof to vindicate reversal—or at least preservation—is needed. While reversing the effects of aging is a seemingly impossible task—as many deceiving products have already proven on people—Yale University discovered that digitization preserves archives longer than any tantamount preservation process has ever done. For the ivy league school, deteriorated books, records and research endangered not only the university's esteemed collection, but also one of the world's leading academic authority's collateral. Yale decided that by digitizing archives, important, usable files could be transferred to any end destination desired and reprinted. In other words, print on-demand.
Publishing is inspired by a simple theoretical idea: to reproduce a document. Despite the Internet and the influence of digital technologies, print publishing is the prime way information is disseminated to the masses. Print publishing's marketplace considers everything from book and magazine publishing to quick printing and copying. If anything, digitization has contributed significantly to how documents of all kinds get produced in print by transferring, saving, creating and editing them electronically. On-demand printing is one method in which documents are produced quickly, satisfying short turnaround times and economic production expectations. Much like the phrase denotes, "on-demand" printing is in high demand among content creators interested in customization. The digital technology applied to this process has not only provided greater optionality for end-destination, but also eliminated printing steps. For Yale University, the process meant that crumbling archives gone untouched, would find a renaissance among scholars. Not only would the digitization save materials, but it would also be an added revenue stream, successful since previously untouched material could suddenly be recirculated and reprinted with the school's permission.
Yale's digitization process was performed in conjunction with the Commission on Preservation and Access (CPA) and Xerox, according to Xerox. The most critical part of the process was scanning badly damaged acidic paper from 19th century archives in Yale's library. The combination of environmental factors, pollution and excessive handling had caused much of the material to be marred. And whereas microfilm had been a long-time staple in preservation for libraries or institutions with large, searchable records, Xerox created a more feasible, usable method. Digital technology, as a result, makes files accessible in any format for output on a variety of media.
For instance, a paper written by an obscure scholar from the 1800s may not be in as much demand as a first edition of a major dramatic script. But the system built to archive and extract the material honors both. Whether a scholar wishes to examine the thesis from 1832 or whether a director intends to produce a production akin to original form, both records can be extracted and printed using the digital technologies that support on-demand printing.
According to a Xerox report, "The projects goals are to prove that the concept can work, to gain experience with converting microfilm to digital and then to evaluate the issues of wider access to information," states Donald J. Waters, the director of library and administrative systems for Yale University at the time that the project was begun.
That was several years ago.
Today, the electronic system is in widespread use. Members are able to gain access to files that were once resigned to dark basements within the gothic store room. The results have meant that customized books have been created that have since bolstered the professional reputation of Yale University Press. For both community and global use, the materials offer up not only evidence of the past's legacy of intellectual investigation, but also a glimpse into how archaic methods of archive and distribution are replaced by more efficient methods of digital exchange and output.
More specifically, on-demand printing accomplishes several goals:
-to modify information as it becomes out dated;
-customize materials by deleting, adding or inserting newly prepared content;
-print additional copies of materials as needed at the same per/unit cost, no matter how many versions are needed.
The process is ideal for short-run projects for which it's more expensive to not print in bulk. And as a result, the past is less a predicament and more a predication of things to come.
-Natalie Hope McDonald