Digital Kielhorn

Paul G. Hackett ph2046 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Sat Feb 16 17:52:15 UTC 2008

Hi all,

  A few comments on some of the issues/questions raised on this thread:

1. About DJVU files.

Timothy Lubin wrote:
>many are in DjVu, which can be viewed by streaming on-line but I 
>have not found any way to download those

This may be a function of the web-browser you are using; some 
browsers insist on plug-in streaming options while some other 
browsers (or bulk-downloaders) can give you download options.

There are also different means for converting DJVU files to PDF, 
either using the "Print" interface of a stand-alone reader writing to 
a post-script file (with a "distiller" to convert post-script to 
PDF), or some plug-ins that do this within a browser.  See for 

2. About Digital Libraries

Dominik Wujastyk wrote:
>  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.

Disk-space is cheap ... a lot cheaper than *shelf-space* (at least in 
Manhattan), and internal-networks (say, within a university) can be 
effectively unlimited (so long as there is no video-streaming).  As 
for administering it, eventually "digital librarian" and "digital 
preservation" positions will have to become a reality as libraries 
commit to electronic delivery models (such already exist for many 
journals & ILL departments).

3. Regarding peer-to-peer distribution:

Birgit Kellner wrote:
>>  I sometimes think that Bittorrent might be relevant to our 
>>situation. Distributed, low-overhead, free...
>... but requiring a significant number of file sharers to be online 
>(otherwise, the download will just not exist), and, as a 
>file-sharing protocol, perhaps already on its way out, as file 
>sharing gets increasingly criminalized by the entertainment industry 
>and at least some US universities and internet providers already per 
>default block the ports that Bittorrent might use or find other ways 
>to lock out file sharing.

Actually, bittorrents can function with only 1 "seed" ... which is 
how they are initially "seeded".  The only requirement is a 
suffiently large pool of users commited to hosting all the files. 
Since most image-only (i.e. not etext, but digital photocopies) 
ebooks range from 5Mb to 100Mb (compared to video files which range 
from 300Mb to 5-10Gb -- the more commonly shared files), there is no 
reason why an individual computer could not serve up a dozen or more 
ebooks at a time.

    As for ISPs, obviously Universities can place whatever 
restrictions they wish on the end-users of their systems.
    Commercial ISPs are a different story, since the major ones like 
to boast "high-speed, unfettered access to the internet" (or some 
such jargon), and ISPs that have blocked bittorrent ports have been 
(and in some cases currently *are* being sued by end-users).  The 
bittorrent *hosting* ISPs are also another story since many-to-many 
peer-to-peer sharing technology is *not* technically illegal 
(one-to-one P2P *was*, hence the death of Napster), and the RIA has 
yet to devise a way to make it illegal that does not completely kill 
"Fair Use".  Consequently, they have instead resorted to intimidation 
techniques, threatening ISPs with lawsuits (i.e., costly legal 
defense expenses).  A recent example was such an action by the CRIA 
(Canada) against a major UK bittorrent host.
    Consequently, many Bittorrent hosts have moved to the FSU ("Former 
Soviet Union") or other "anarchy-friendly" (as someone described 
them) countries, where bittorrent activity is far from dead.  There 
are, as well, a large number of rapidshare e-book trading communities 
flourishing there as well, and if you can read Russian you can find 
quite a large number of Indological books on some of those lists as 

>I doubt that (as a caricature) your 55-year-old Indologist in his 
>tweedjacket has the energy, time, patience, interest and 
>technological knowledge to become a file sharing nomad, constantly 
>keeping himself up to date as to which protocols, ports and software 
>to use :-)
>  (I definitely do wear my sceptic's hat today ...)

yes, but presumably the same hypothetical scholar might have trouble 
changing the ribbon in his/her Smith-Corona typewriter.

Accessing digital resources is no different (IMO) from accessing 
print resources -- you still have to know what you are doing, whether 
it is using a library catalog (OPAC or otherwise), citation index, or 
   If you drive a car and something stops working, you can: a) fix it 
yourself, b) call someone else who knows how to fix it, or c) just 
give up and resign your self to walking.  All technology is 
inscrutable until you take the time to learn how to use it.

Perhaps this is a "transitionary" time for scholars as well as libraries (!)

(I'm wearing my "confrontational hat" today)  : -)

Paul Hackett
Columbia University

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