Electronics vs. Paper

Sun Oct 29 11:57:20 CST 1995

Julian Humphries wrote:

>All of them, libraries as repositories of paper based books will have
>disappeared in 50 years (probably less). Sure, "rare book" rooms will
>exist to hold stuff of antiquarian interest, but there will be zero paper
>based publishing long before your 200 year threshold.  What I think we
>better worry about is is how we are going to read those currently 100
>year old descriptions within the next 20 years as libraries move more
>and more of their less frequently used (the stuff we need) books and
>journals to long-term warehouse type storage.

Of course, there is always the possibility of scanning, optical-character-
reading, and indexing all those precious old journals and monographs so
they can join current/future descriptions and monographs in electronic

Out of the question? You may be surprised at what is *now* possible and
underway. The Ecological Society of America and the Mellon Foundation
have begun a joint project to create an Internet-accessible historical
archive of all the ESA's journals, back to Vol. 1 (1920 for Ecology),
seamlessly integrated with future dual publication (paper and
electronic) of all new issues. The scanning is done at 600 dpi, the OCRing
at well over 99% accuracy (1 error per 2000 chars), all for about $0.40 a
page by a commercial contractor (Digital Imaging) in Barbados with a 24
hr/day operation. The ESA's 108,000 pages will take about two weeks to
scan and OCR, once the work begins.

The archive will be part of Mellon's *non-profit* JSTOR project (with U.
Mich. School of Library Sci), which has already undertaken the scanning,
OCRing, and indexing of all historical volumes of the 10 principal journals
in economics and history-more than 750,000 pages. It is nearly completed.
The JSTOR browser (developed with Mellon funding) presents an archival
quality on-screen image (and print driver) of the original pages (nice, but
in any case a legal requirement of intl. copyright law, which demands
"faithful reproduction" of the original), linked to a search index based on
the OCR stream. As far as I know, JSTOR does not yet have a public-access
URL, but I have seen it (I am in heading up this project for the ESA) and it
the quality is superb, for figures as well as text.

Needless to say, all this will get faster and cheaper. Funding will always
be a problem, but the goal of one day electronically uniting the paper past
with the electronic present/future in systematics is certainly not
technically out of reach, even now!.

Robert K. Colwell
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Connecticut, U-42
Storrs, CT 06269-3042
E-mail colwell at uconnvm.uconn.edu
***PLEASE NOTE THE NEW AREA CODE for northern. CT: 860***
Voice (860) 486-4395
Fax (860) 486-3790
ÿÿ    Re: Electronics vs. Paper

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