Digital Kielhorn

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Fri Feb 15 22:27:17 UTC 2008

This is an interesting idea, but the problem of needing a librarian (and a 
salary) still arises.  Also, as soon as one starts putting even modest 
numbers of PDF books together, one starts to eat up very large amounts of 
disk space, and bandwidth.

I sometimes think that Bittorrent might be relevant to our situation. 
Distributed, low-overhead, free...


On Fri, 15 Feb 2008, Jonathan Silk wrote:

> There seems to be an unstated or implicit caveat in Birgit's thoughtful
> post: she refers several times in slightly different words to the
> difficulties of "fully public resources." Now, when a specialist in logic
> says something like this, it makes me want to ask "what about not fully
> public resources?"  For instance, what about making available on a password
> protected site materials which can be accessed by --let's say, as an
> example--only those who have an Indology sign-in password? Does this change
> the status of things? I am aware that some places post things on intra-nets
> for internal use, which I understand as a sort of digital version of placing
> a folder with a copy behind the librarian's desk. Could this be similar? But
> maybe I'm being too optimistic?
> Jonathan
> On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 8:18 PM, Birgit Kellner <birgit.kellner at>
> wrote:
>> Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>>> It's a very good idea, Christophe.  I have a growing private collection
>>> of indological books in digital form that I would gladly donate to
>>> someone to start off such a library.  But libraries need librarians, and
>>> to be successful, such an initiative would need a proper institutional
>>> base.
>>> I suspect that we are living in a time of transition, and that in a few
>>> years it will be the norm that when looking up a book in our university
>>> library catalogues, there will be a button that automatically takes us
>>> to a digital edition, if one exists.  Something like this is already in
>>> place in some of the library catalogues I use (UCL, UTexas).  Maybe we
>>> should just encourage our librarians to push ahead with this kind of
>>> facility.
>>> Another way forward would be to tie the digital books and articles that
>>> we are accumulating to the entries in one of the South Asia research
>>> databases such as SARDS, ABC, Potter's BIP, Nat. Bib. Ind. Lit., Bibl.
>>> Asian Studs., etc.
>>> Best,
>>> Dominik
>> I agree that a proper institutional base is required for an Indological
>> digital collection on a larger scale; the technical challenges are, as
>> Daniel Stender pointed out, considerable.
>> What is more, anything that is undertaken here requires far greater
>> collaboration and cooperation among the individual resource suppliers
>> than has so far been the case. Wheels continue to be reinvented, and in
>> a field with such meagre resources on the whole, this is not a situation
>> one should wish to perpetuate.
>> There are essentially two approaches to such digital collections:
>> - actual collections of digital material, accompanied by a basic
>> bibliographical database that provides search functions at least for
>> author and title: that's very hard to do in public, or to make
>> accessible to a large public, if one takes copyright issues seriously
>> (and with fully public resources, one is well-advised to do so).
>> - collections of links to digital material that has been made available
>> by Google, etc.: easier to achieve, but also far less stable. Links
>> change, and Google does for some or another reason take books offline
>> that had been online for a while. In addition, here, too, access
>> permissions vary, for, as others have already pointed out, many books
>> that Google makes available as full PDF in the US are not available as
>> such in Europe (restrictions that can be circumvented by using a US
>> proxy in the browser). They do so also in cases where this is not
>> legally required; it's not an entirely comforting prospect to be at the
>> mercy of Google here, which operates in a rather intransparent manner.
>> I am far less optimistic than Dominik as far as the future "norm" and
>> the increasing availability of digital books is concerned. As least as
>> far as journal articles are concerned, access to digital versions is in
>> the European Union experiencing a serious backlash due to the
>> introduction of more restrictive copyright laws.
>> It used to be possible, for instance, to order (for 5 Euros a piece for
>> university staff) article or book chapter PDFs from almost any German
>> University library via the SUBITO document ordering service. This was an
>> incredibly convenient and efficient service - alas, this is now no
>> longer possible - we're back to receiving paper copies and faxes, which
>> we can then happily feed to our scanners :-)
>> To what extent the digital availability of books or journals damages or
>> influences the whole economy of publishing remains to be seen - some
>> publishers believe that the spread of digital copies will harm their
>> prospects, while others encourage it and try to find new business
>> models. This is, indeed, a transition period, but as the example of the
>> music industry shows, the big players in the field (and they set the
>> tone) are rather on the restrictive side. The same goes for publishers,
>> as far as I see.
>> For the time being, with a few glorious exceptions, access to full books
>> PDFs is for the most part limited to works whose copyright has expired.
>> If this continues to be the case (and there are always, and will always
>> be, initiatives to extend copyright terms, which in my opinion works
>> against scholars rather than for them), then we'll have the bizarre
>> situation that the state of knowledge which is the easiest to get access
>> to will be that of roughly 80 years ago. That may not be bad in all
>> cases, but it's certainly not desirable on the whole.
>> Best,
>> Birgit Kellner
>> (currently UC Berkeley)
> --
> J. Silk
> Instituut Kern / Universiteit Leiden
> Postbus 9515
> 2300 RA Leiden
> Netherlands

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