Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Case for Digital Preservation

Now, I'm pretty sure there is no need for me to make the case to the good readers of this blog, but if you're ever stuck for something to say about why your work is important - for example at parties - then the demise of the print edition of the OED seems a good candidate!

OK, so no one is about to ditch the Pocket version, or even the Shorter (I got one of those for a graduation present from my Grandma!), but even so...

The last print OED was published in 1989. I imagine, given the regular updates to the OED online, that there has been a substantial influx of words since 1989 and I guess (given how Chaucer looks now) English will undergo some significant changes in the future. Unless we (the DP community) decide to preserve the digital OED, we will condemn readers of 2489 to struggle on with an antique 1989 print copy and much will they wonder when they don't find things like "Internet"...

(Mind you, the electricity might have all run out by then so it wont really matter...)

On the flip side, and no doubt something someone at the party will point out, this is also a case for continuing to print the OED - at least a few copies, kept in safe places... ;-)

2 comments:

bibwild said...

"On the flip side, and no doubt something someone at the party will point out, this is also a case for continuing to print the OED - at least a few copies, kept in safe places."

This is a point which gets me thinking. Apparently, it's not cost-effective to print the OED anymore, there's not a market for it. I don't really doubt this.

So that's from a business perspective. But from a preservation perspective, what if I few libraries got together (with a few foundations and funding organizations to fund it), and worked with the OED to print just a handful of 'on-demand' type copies, once every 5 years or so, dead-tree dumps of the online OED, to be held in protected collections for preservation purposes. With costs split between the OED itself, libraries, and foundation funders. The per-copy price is going to be high, which is why there is no purely market-supported print version anymore, but if it's socially important why not fund it anyway?

pixelatedpete said...

I think it'd be nice to keep a copy somewhere, though I suspect the folks that made the Rosetta Stone didn't think about keeping it for future generations, and I can't help but wonder if that feeling is a result of English Lit. education and a love of real books rather than any real requirement for preservation... If we're not careful we'll end up sounding like the taxi driver that suggested printing everything! :-)

The question: "if it's socially important why not fund it anyway?" is far bigger than I can answer... :-)