On wikipedia-l Florence Devouard wrote:
During that event, I mentionned that the French
several ongoing discussions with various museums to set up
Wikisource is really a much larger project than Wikipedia.
Consider any public library: The encyclopedia shelf or quick
reference section (Wikipedia) is less than one percent of the
whole library (Wikisource). After seven years of writing
Wikipedia, we are now getting useful results in many languages.
Wikisource might take 70 years.
What we can expect during 2009 is some small step forward on this
longer path. Taking a single step might sound easy, but it's hard
enough to know which direction is forward.
If you can achieve real, practical, pragmatic cooperations that
actually result in more free content, even if it is not very much,
that is probably the best step forward. But you must be prepared
that infighting and prestige among public institutions can be
tough, especially when it comes to competing for funding.
In Europe, at least in some countries, we meet several
* many scholars have a rather bad image of Wikipedia (because
written by amateurs, anonymous members, plagued by vandals
There is a clear risk that this bad image is enforced. Our
message that "anybody can contribute" is hard to combine with the
prestigeous thinking among the institutions where you seek
I'd like to recommend an article in the October 2008 issues of the
open access journal "First Monday", "Mass book digitization: The
deeper story of Google Books and the Open Content Alliance" by
This article is just one in a ton of literature on how to scan (or
microfilm) books, that have appeared in the last 20 years. But it
is interesting because it evaluates two large-scale projects of
the last few years, and compares them to each other. Even though
"digital libraries" is a new science, it is already full of
established truths. Perhaps this is due to the high involvement
of public institutions. One such truth is that image compression
(with JPEG artifacts) must be avoided at all cost.
Both Google Books and the Open Content Alliance (Internet Archive)
break this rule, by using consumer-grade digital cameras and JPEG
compression, and should thus be considered a waste of time,
according to conventional wisdom (or "best current practices").
Still, nobody can avoid being impressed with their results, and so
the scientific world needs to revise its understanding of the
current state of the art. The author of this article goes to
great lengths (in the "Discussion" section) to explain that what
these projects do is "access digitization", which is described as
something completely different than traditional book scanning:
"Before one can compare the two projects, it is important to
first realize that both projects are really only access
digitization projects, despite the common assertion of OCA
captures as preservation digitization. Neither initiative uses
an imaging pipeline or capture environment suitable for true
preservation scanning. The OCA project outputs
variable–resolution JPEG2000 files built from lossy
camera–generated JPEG files. A consumer area array digital
camera is used to produce images ..."
Needless to say, neither Project Gutenberg nor Wikisource are
mentioned in this article. Their goals are just too different
(what? free content?), their achievements not impressive enough.
They are not potential future employers of "digital library"
scholars. If you help them or cooperate with them, you will only
help mankind in an altruistic fashion (what fools!), you will not
help your own professional or academic career.
In the article, the Open Content Alliance already plays the role
of the fools. They have only (!) digitized 100,000 books, while
Google Books has millions. They do not provide the same search
capability. And so it goes on. The next time the Internet Archive
(OCA) applies for funding or tries to establish cooperations with
more institutions, such arguments might be used against them.
What Wikisource really needs to do, is to provide an explanation
of what it does, and how this goes beyond Google Books' "access
digitization". In Europe, this must be set in the perspective of
ongoing French, German and EU initiatives (Gallica, Theseus,
Quaero, Europeana, ...). When one of those projects applies for
funding, it will need to show that it is successful in attracting
cooperation partners and that it is a leader among similar
projects. We should be prepared that they take any opportunity to
define Wikisource as a loser, amateurish, clueless project. This
is not because they are evil, only because they do what they can
to get the funding they need.
Why should museum X or library Y or archive Z cooperate with
Wikisource, when it risks being associated with such descriptions
of failure? The alternative for that institution might be to
cooperate with the successful Google or Gallica. So why is
Wikisource superior? This is what we need to explain.
* develop arguments for museums etc...
Lars Aronsson (lars(a)aronsson.se)
Aronsson Datateknik - http://aronsson.se