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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Publishing makes shift to digital
Reading room at the British Library
500,000 visitors use the British Library's reading rooms every year
The vast majority of UK research material will be available in electronic form by 2020.

According to a study commissioned by the British Library, 90% of newly published work will be available digitally by this time.

Only half of this will also be available in print form, with just 10% of new titles available only in print.

It represents a "seismic shift" in the world of publishing said British Library chief executive Lynne Brindley.

For its part, the British Library aims to spend the next three years developing the infrastructure necessary to store, manage, preserve and provide access to digital material.

Preserving blogs?

Part of our collection of so-called ephemera includes labels from food tins and old theatre tickets. This provides valuable social information and it may be that blogs play that sort of role in future
British Library spokesman

"In many ways digital material is more fragile than physical material and if we don't manage it effectively it won't survive for future generations," said Ms Brindley.

The new collection will include both items "born digital" and those that have been digitised, such as Shakespeare's Quartos and newspapers from the 19th Century.

The British Library's collection already covers every information format from oracle bones to kilobytes and it is determined to provide the same infrastructure for holding a national collection of digital items as it does for its 160 million strong collection of books, manuscripts, sound recordings, patents, stamps and maps.

Text from Hamlet
Shakespeare's plays have been digitised

The system for digital storage has been designed to be tamper-proof. There will be at least three copies of everything. An offline copy will be stored separately in case of a catastrophic system failure.

Part of the move towards a digital collection will involve the archiving of websites and there is a challenge here for the library to decide what to preserve and what to leave to cyberspace.

"We need to identify websites of national significance, such as those of the main political parties at general election time," said a spokesman for the British Library.

Down the line the archive could include blogs as well, he said.

"Part of our collection of so-called ephemera includes labels from food tins and old theatre tickets. This provides valuable social information and it may be that blogs play that sort of role in future," he said.

In 2003 the British Library secured legislation that ensured its legal right to a copy of every book and periodical published in the UK was extended to non-print media, which includes CD-ROMs and electronic journals.


SEE ALSO:
Online archive moves step closer
13 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Digital media becomes 'UK norm'
09 Mar 05 |  Technology
British Library gets wireless net
18 Nov 04 |  Technology
Historical directories go online
15 Oct 04 |  Technology
Shakespearean text lives online
10 Sep 04 |  Technology


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