Digitizing books

Once books are digitized, many libraries discard the physical copies of the books from their building, just so that they don’t take up extra space.  While this is an interesting idea, of course the question remains…what would happen if we lost all physical copies of books and our digital versions were all destroyed? I know that this idea is probably something that would never happen, but what if?  It seems that the Internet Archive is concerned as well, and they’ve started collecting actual paper copies of books that have been digitized and storing them in large containers in a warehouse.

First of all, what is the Internet Archive?  It is a site devoted to saving everything that’s ever been on the internet.  We tend to forget that while things are added daily, there were sites available years ago that we just can’t access anymore. Often, the sites just become obsolete, but sometimes, they go offline because the server can’t support them anymore. Regardless, the Internet Archives is a place that is trying to keep a running tally of everything we’ve ever had access to, and seems to be doing a great job.

There are wonderful arguments for keeping physical copies of digitized books, as the Internet Archive argues….someday, a bit of information from a book might be challenged and with proper storage, one could go back to the original source (the book) and get the correct information. Others take umbrage against how the books are being treated when digitized….sometimes the spines are cut open to scan the pages and many people find this offensive. You can read the entire article about the Internet Archives and their need for keeping physical copies of books right here.

At this point, it is probably only major libraries that are concerned with digital vs hard copies of books and I’m sure it’s done on a library by library basis. At our library, even if digital copies of our books are available to the public, we haven’t taken that step, and most likely won’t until it is a practice done across the board.  Many times, the libraries are doing this to make space for meeting rooms, different types of accessible space and yes, even computers.

Do you think it’s a good idea to keep copies of books already digitized or overkill?

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