This week, the Internet Archive and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) were honored for the Best Book of 2019 at the annual Digital Book World Awards for their work to create an enhanced version of the Mueller Report. The Digital Book World (DBW) Award recognizes outstanding achievement in digital publishing. The Internet Archive and DPLA were awarded Best Book in the nonfiction category for their work in creating a more accessible and contextualized version of the Mueller Report. “This is an important document for American history,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “It deserved to be enhanced with features to make it more usable for more people—so they could not only read it but dive in and click to go further.”
After months of anticipation and speculation, the U.S. Department of Justice released the Mueller Report this spring as a PDF that was an image of the text. “It was a dead document,” Kahle said. “You couldn’t cut and paste; you couldn’t search it. We sprang into action.”
Although the DOJ posted an updated version with searchable text four days later, the format still lacked important functionality. The report contained almost 2,400 footnotes, but only 14—barely half of one percent—included links to live web pages. In addition, the report contained a number of formatting issues which made it difficult for people with disabilities to read.
The Internet Archive and its partners immediately began working to improve the report’s format. By collaborating with members of the accessibility community, it made the report usable for readers with visual impairments; in partnership with DPLA, it ensured the report was released in EPUB format for use on ebook readers.
Most importantly, the Internet Archive got to work turning as many footnotes as possible into clickable links. A team of four researchers worked for three months, investigating every footnote, identifying and compiling the publicly available sources, uploading them into the Internet Archive, and inserting those links into the report. By the time they finished, the researchers had turned 747 footnotes—almost a third of the total—into clickable links. The Internet Archive and DPLA re-released the enhanced report in mid-July.
“We’re very happy about the award,” said Mr. Kahle. “We hope this becomes a standard of excellence for publishing books in the future.”
If you have ideas for other public documents that would benefit from similar enhancements, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to support similar future projects, you can donate to the Archive at archive.org/donate.