Digital Kielhorn

Jonathan Silk kauzeya at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 15 19:30:32 UTC 2008

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?


On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 8:18 PM, Birgit Kellner <birgit.kellner at>

> 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

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