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D-Lib Magazine
July/August 2007

Volume 13 Number 7/8

ISSN 1082-9873

Book Digitization Options for Libraries

According to a June 21, 2007 press release,1 online bookseller Amazon plans to digitize thousands of books through agreements with university and public libraries. Amazon plans to sell hard copies of the digitized books on a print-on-demand basis, selling only books that are either in the public domain or for which copyright is held by the library that provided the digitized book to Amazon. Amazon will then share the profits from the book sales with the library and with Kirtas Technologies, a participating company that sells the book-digitizing equipment that will be used by the libraries to digitize the books.

"This collaboration, which will greatly enhance the selection of rare and historic books for sale on and other retail channels, represents a breakthrough approach to digitization and preservation that will ensure the public will have access to these works indefinitely via Print on Demand. This initiative will also help these institutions fund their mission of preserving these vast literary collections by offering a revenue source from the sales of content these institutions own or that is in the public domain..."

Closely following this announcement, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education2 reported that Google has signed a book digitization agreement with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium whose 12 members include 11 universities in the Big Ten Conference and the University of Chicago. This brings to 25 the number of universities with which Google currently has digitization agreements.

The new Amazon model for book digitization appears to aim for a smaller collection of digitized books than does Google's, and the motivations behind the projects are different. The Amazon model may offer libraries an attractive alternative for digitizing their collections in that the participating library will have more control over the digitization process. On the other hand, if a library chooses to digitize its collection with the Amazon model, it must buy the Kirtas Technology scanning equipment as part of the agreement.

Certainly there is not a one-size-fits-all book digitization model. The ones discussed here are not the only two models available now, and undoubtedly other models will emerge in the future as well.

The greatest beneficiaries of these and other book digitization projects worldwide are readers, who will be able to locate – and in some cases obtain – books that have been inaccessible to them up till now.

Bonita Wilson


1. "BookSurge, an Amazon Group, and Kirtas Collaborate to Preserve and Distribute Historic Archival Books." Press release. June 21, 2007. <>.

2. Carnevale, Dan. "Amazon to Sell Digital Copies of Books in a Deal That Includes College Libraries." The Chronicle of Higher Education. July 6, 2007.

Copyright© 2007 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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