As the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and the University Librarian, Emeritus at Harvard University, Darnton has long been a champion of broadening access to information. He also sees the value of making materials more widely available when it comes to his own research outputs.
Darnton has made two of his books, which are both still in print, freely available online: Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France (Harvard University Press, l968) and The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie, l775-l800 (Harvard University Press, l979). Several other of his titles are available to borrow electronically through the Internet Archive’s Open Library.
Eventually, Darnton said he’d like all his titles to be digitized. “I feel it’s in my best interest to reach as large a public audience as I possibly can,” said Darnton. He believes the exposure online helps with the marketing of his books. Indeed, there was an increase in sales of the Mesmerism book once it was digitized.
Many academics don’t rely on books for income and it’s rare that royalties continue after a few years. “What authors want when that ceases is to reach readers. This is the best way to do it,” Darnton said. “CDL is a good system and a way to really improve people’s access to literature without harming anyone.”
In higher education, resources from one campus library to another can vary widely. Even at Harvard, Darnton said it’s not possible to make all books available — let alone small libraries with limited budgets. Libraries can benefit from interlibrary loans and digital lending can provide even greater relief from isolation for institutions without the means of expanding their collections.
“CDL can make an enormous difference, even for such privileged environments as Harvard,” Darnton said. “There is momentum behind CDL. It is not just the way to go, but the way things are going.”
Being able to lend an array of materials is fundamental to what public libraries do and Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending– is another tool for libraries to fulfill that mission, according to John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, a national organization dedicated to building voter support for libraries.
“There are numerous marooned assets within library collections. From 1924 to early the 2000s, there is content that is relevant to certain lines of inquiries or communities, yet it is trapped on paper,” said Chrastka, an early endorser of CDL. “Liberating it into an environment where it could be shared to one user at a time allows those marooned assets to be put back to work. So much public money has been spent over the years acquiring material that is now essentially isolated and cut off from actual use.”
“CDL is a way to ensure that books purchased with public dollars are used in the way they were intended to further education, enjoyment and entertainment,” said Chrastka. Technology has advanced in a way that can practically expand access and renew productivity of older titles to better serve the public. It moves the issue of access beyond location.
EveryLibrary is promoting the value of CDL on many fronts, including how it can open up materials to special populations. For example, there is a collection of oral histories from early Czech immigrants to the United States in a suburban Chicago library. It used to be that many descendants lived nearby and could walk to the library to look up those materials, but they have since moved. While the materials are physically stuck in Illinois, families and scholars elsewhere may be interested if only they had digital access, noted Chrastka.
CDL can also unlock commercial historical documents from the 1920s to the dawn of the computer age. Hidden in the information announcements of businesses may be solutions to problems of today – products that could be useful in future research and development for new companies.
Added Chrastka: “[CDL] is not something that is aspirational. This is about access. It is a core competency of libraries they should be exercising.”
Anyone interested in learning about what was taught in Alberta schools in the past century used to go to the basement of the H. T. Coutts Education and Kinesiology and Physical Education Library at the University of Alberta. There, users would ask to be let into a locked room to view the historical curriculum collection.
Now, many of the historic textbooks are online and available through Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of a traditional library lending. It’s making for a new chapter in educational research at the urban university, which has about 40,000 students.
“It’s important for me to trace ideas in curriculum over time,” said Cathryn van Kessel, Assistant Professor of Education who is studying feminist issues in curriculum documents and textbooks. “The digitized collection allows researchers to shave countless hours off of our data collection. Being able to access electronic copies with searchable text is invaluable.”
CDL is also useful for the growing number of students taking online classes at the university and researchers who live outside of Edmonton or in other provinces, said Kim Frail, Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Library on campus.
The University of Alberta Libraries is Canada’s second-largest research library containing more than 5.2 million titles, 7.5 million volumes, 1.3 million e-books and 1,100 databases. They were also the first to adopt CDL in Canada.
The education library received a bequest from estate from Marie Wiedrick, wife of a former faculty member, Laurence Wiedrick, that has been used to fund the digitization project . With the help of the Internet Archives, which set up a scanning facility on campus, the university is more than halfway through digitizing approximately 6000 books that were used in Alberta schools from 1885 to 1985.
Many of the books in the Wiedrick Collection are becoming fragile and deteriorating as they were physically checked out. CDL provides an alternative format that allows the originals to be preserved.
“We think it’s a great legacy for the [Wiedrick] family because it allows broader access to the collection,” said Frail, who works with education researchers at the library that functions as a quasi-academic and public library used by the broader community. In one education course, students examine the representation of Indigenous people over time in historical textbooks. In graduate-level courses that focus on the history of curriculum, students select a certain 10-year period to study how the teaching of certain subjects has changed. Having digital content makes it easier for students to access the materials, especially with regards to curriculum documents or “Programs of Study” from the early 1900s when all the subjects were contained in one book, noted Frail.
Recently, an Alberta researcher received a large grant to work in collaboration with scholars at 17 universities around Canada to examine how history has been taught in the schools over time. Online access to the Wiedrick Collection means that researchers can tap into textbooks in Alberta from any location.
“As we move forward in education, it’s interesting to know where there were gaps – what things were and weren’t being taught,” said Frail.
It’s a particularly useful resource, as well, since librarians have compiled a bibliography that traces what books were used when and for what subject, Frail added. Digitizing the older works enables researchers to conveniently search topics electronically with key words.
“We are hearing great feedback,” said Frail. “It has opened up a whole new realm of research and enabled comparisons over time on a different scale.”
Dean Bartoli Smith’s book of poetry about growing up in Baltimore came out in 2000. American Boy was long past its sales life until it was resurrected by being digitized by the Internet Archive and made available through one-at-a-time digital lending (a model known as Controlled Digital Lending).
“It’s uniquely personal to me because some of the poems deal with my parents’ divorce at the age of seven,” says Smith of the 68-page collection of poems. “My mother became a family law attorney and would give my book to clients who were dealing with custody situations. She passed away in January and as a tribute to her, I wanted there to be free access to that book.”
The poems reflect Smith’s journey to adulthood and issues of the day, such as Vietnam and the plight of Native Americans. It is geared for readers 10 and up. Initially, about 1,000 copies were printed by Washington Writers Publishing House and now the book is available by print on demand.
“I think there is a big need to be able to provide access to these books that are out of print,” said Smith, who is director of the Duke University Press and a 1989 graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts program at Columbia University, “I didn’t go about writing as a way to make a living. Poets are writing poetry to make sense of the world and to share. If someone can benefit from something that I’ve written, then all the more power.”
Smith also wrote Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season, a nonfiction trade book about the Baltimore Ravens 2012 Super Bowl season published by Temple University Press in 2013. Each chapter starts with a line of poetry about football from an established poet. While still in print, Smith said he may eventually explore having that title digitized by the Internet Archive.
By continuing to find new opportunities to make older books, often lost or just inaccessible to the public, available online, Boston Public Library is sparking new enthusiasm among the reading public.
“It’s like a giant treasure hunt for book lovers that just keeps renewing itself,” said BPL President David Leonard.
As one of the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded public libraries in the United States, the Boston Public Library (BPL) holds an estimated 23 million items in its collection. It is one of the three largest in the country along with the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
“Libraries that are thriving the most are the ones that are reinventing themselves, responding to new demand and new modes of access, simultaneously keeping one foot in traditional services and engaging with the public in new ways,” said Leonard “and that goes for our physical spaces and for our collections.”
BPL has long been a leader in the digitization and scanning of materials and was the first library to partner with the Internet Archive to pilot access via Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) services in 2011. CDL is the online or digital equivalent of traditional library lending – ‘one copy owned, one copy lent’.
The CDL pilot began in Boston as a way of both preserving and giving access to family genealogies and historical cookbooks, and materials that were stored deep in the stacks and rarely circulated. The first pilot was a success and BPL is moving to its next pilot now offering ‘one patron, one copy at-a-time’ access to scanned copies of certain older printed books from the 50,000 historic children’s books in the Alice Jordan Collection, which is housed in closed stacks and unavailable to the public in physical form. A subset of these works are now available at the Internet Archive via CDL, making them available to patrons for the first time, limited to where the BPL’s catalog overlaps with the Internet Archives’ already scanned materials.
BPL also has a strong relationship with Boston-based publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has donated a physical copy of every book it has produced since the late 1800s to the Library. While nearly 90 percent of those titles are not in print today, the publisher has agreed to let the library make available a scanned copy of each item in the historical archive through the CDL program, reactivating the collection.
With so many lost titles becoming available again, it has become easier for patrons to discover and access an even broader array of books – in some cases, not only giving renewed exposure to a title that has been out of print, but also generating new revenue streams for publishers. The BPL cites at least one example from its early pilot where an author went ahead with a second printing of a book which had been out of print and was rediscovered through the CDL program.
“We hope as more institutions understand the value, we will be able to bring more content back,” Leonard said. “As well as delivering on our mission of increased public access, this program has the effect of being a real marketing channel for both authors and publishers, something libraries have long been a champion for. It provides a particularly useful channel for people to demonstrate their interest in older works, and can revive their commercial value.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press was the first university press to sign an agreement with the Internet Archive to scan older print books for which it had no digital copies to make them available for one-at-a-time lending, a model known as Controlled Digital Lending.
Amy Brand, Director of MIT Press
“These are works that are available through Controlled Digital Lending, but where the list of what’s available is curated by us rather than by libraries,” said Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press. “We are a mission-driven publisher and we have been very proactive in the open access space for a long time. It’s been a top priority to me to digitize everything I could and make as many of our scholarly monographs open as possible.”
That said, there are concerns that the digitize-and-lend will hurt book sales and presses’ own efforts to make digital books available to libraries. The ebooks of concern are newer titles and trade books, noted Brand, while the works that the MIT Press is contributing to the CDL program are typically older back-list titles that were never digitized and that the Press is not currently selling, including works that are out of print entirely.
“We also give the author an opt-out courtesy notice. We think they should be comfortable with the works being made openly available in this way,” Brand said, noting that MIT Press’s approach is always author driven.
After MIT announced its relationship with Internet Archive, the Press received positive news coverage and has been actively helping to involve other university presses. About a dozen others including Cornell University Press and the University of Colorado Press, have come on board with digitizing titles.
“I would like to see scholarly work that has not previously been digitized made available,” Brand said. “I believe strongly that scientific and scholarly knowledge should be shared as broadly as possible. I think university presses have a big role to play. The university press community is much more likely to be supportive of an approach to Controlled Digital Lending that includes, rather than excludes, publisher curation of works that libraries digitize and lend, in order to protect the ability of mission-driven presses to sustain themselves and keep publishing high-quality scholarship.”
Michelle Wu began working at the University of Houston Law Library in the wake of flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Some parts of the city had 14 feet of water and the library took in at least 8 feet. Law books on the lower level were underwater and the lingering humidity produced mold that destroyed much of the remaining collection.
“I wanted to create a model that would allow libraries to be able to preserve collections while respecting copyright in a world where natural disasters are a growing threat,” said Wu, now associate dean for library services and professor of law at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C. “Digitizing a collection and storing it under existing standards ensures that there is always a backed-up copy somewhere. During and after any disaster, the user would never lose access and the government would not have to reinvest to rebuild collections.” Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending–is a model that achieves these purposes.
For libraries with fewer resources, CDL can also be a tool to maximize public dollars and improve access. Once a library determines that its community no longer has a need for a certain CDL book (or as many copies as owned), the extra copies can be shared with libraries that never had access and would never have access without collaborative efforts.
“It’s a way of wealth sharing without much cost to communities,” Wu said. “Storage, digitization, and system costs would have already been budgeted by the lending library, CDL requires no shipping costs to be paid by either party, and the lending library’s community won’t feel the loss of copies as local need has decreased.”
“It’s a way to build a more robust collection for all of us to use. It helps the community and society at large in the long term,” said Wu. “That’s not something any of us can do alone. The only way we will do it is if we do it together.”
This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting how libraries and publishers are addressing the challenges of providing digital access to materials in their print collections. Using controlled digital lending, libraries and publishers have a new model for making their printed works available in digital form in ways that protect their copyrighted materials and intellectual property. Future posts will feature examples of how libraries, publishers, and authors are utilizing controlled digital lending to reach their patrons and readers, and the impact that controlled digital lending is having for their mission-driven work.
The Internet Archive believes passionately that access to knowledge is a fundamental human right. Knowledge makes us stronger and more resilient; it provides pathways to education and the means to secure a job. But for many learners, distance, time, cost or disability pose daunting barriers to the information in physical books.
“To provide universal access to all knowledge, we need digital versions of books,” said Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle. “People will learn from what they get a hold of and we need high quality information – the best – accessible to everyone.”
Digitizing books has been at the core of the Internet Archive’s work for years. Since 2004, Internet Archive has partnered with more than 500 libraries to digitize and make accessible nearly 4 million books, most of which are in the public domain and therefore easily published online without restrictions for use or reuse. To address the challenge of providing access to materials that are still in copyright, in 2011 Internet Archive began to pilot a service with Boston Public Library, the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded library, to digitize and lend in-copyright books. Over the past eight years, the effort has expanded into the Open Libraries program, which now offers more than 1 million modern digitized books that can be checked out, one at a time, by readers all over the world for free. More than two dozen libraries – large and small, public and academic – are now partnering with the Archive to provide access to these materials at no additional cost to their patrons. It is a collaborative effort that is harnessing the creativity of the library community.
How controlled digital lending works
Lending digitized versions of in-copyright books to online users is supported by copyright scholars, who coined the term controlled digital lending in 2017 and described the legal framework in a Position Statement and supporting White Paper. With controlled digital lending, libraries can identify which of the books in their collection Internet Archive has already digitized, and where there’s a match, libraries can lend a digital copy instead of the physical copy on their shelves. The “control” in controlled digital lending comes via digital rights management software and protected file access which ensures that the copyright material can’t be redistributed; it is available to one user at a time, just like a printed book.
Because the access model is digital and online, controlled digital lending makes it possible for rural libraries to reach patrons with transportation issues who were previously unable to make it into a branch. Controlled digital lending allows patrons to read fragile and rare books that can’t circulate because of their value or condition. It is bringing new life to old titles that have been tucked away in storage or long out of print with no digital edition. And, it is transforming the information ecosystem and reigniting enthusiasm for libraries as the trusted place for knowledge in our current era of disinformation.
“If we don’t do this, some of the problems we are seeing with fake news will only continue,” Kahle said. “If there is no acceptable record, then history can just be rewritten with a blog post.”
Impact and future direction
Because the majority of the published works of the 20th century are not available online, the Internet Archive is prioritizing digitizing materials from the 20th century that are highly referenced on Wikipedia, included in course syllabi, and widely held in libraries. If the internet is the go-to place for information, then there needs to be a wide range of materials available. The goal is to provide access to a world-class library to all digital learners around the globe, enabling individuals and communities to raise and empower an educated citizenry. Having historical books digitized, for example those that chronicle the Civil Rights movement or World War II history, gives readers context for contemporary issues in our global society.
Adds Kahle: “Let’s bring back the breadth of the public library. Let’s bring back the wonder of being able to go into a library and have access to materials and new and different tools…I want to deliver on the promise of a better library system for our kids.”
-Chris Freeland, Internet Archive, and Caralee Adams, SPARC
This summer, representatives from the Internet Archive joined librarians and advocates in Washington D.C., to talk with policymakers about how Controlled Digital Lending, or CDL, helps their communities. The resounding response from Congressional offices was that CDL “just makes sense” and they want to support libraries that embrace technology to fulfill their public service missions.
As technology advances, so too does the ability to lend books efficiently, easily, and broadly, specifically with CDL. With CDL, a library digitizes a book it owns and lends out one secured digital version to one user at a time. It is the digital equivalent of traditional lending. CDL is not intended to replace or circumvent a library’s existing e-book subscriptions but instead serves as a powerful tool for bridging the gap between print and electronic resources for readers and researchers alike.
Through powerful stories, librarians explained that CDL is benefiting specific communities by:
Providing access to rural patrons who find it challenging to physically check out a book;
Protecting materials from damage in natural disasters from fire to floods;
Saving the cost of transporting books to other branches to be loaned;
Allowing access to rare, fragile books or those out of print and not in circulation;
Preserving vulnerable cultural heritage materials for indigenous people;
Supplementing materials at K-12 and university libraries that are suffering budget cuts;
Providing historical context and fighting misinformation online; and
Increasing access for people with disabilities, the elderly and students in off hours.
The concluding message to Congress was that libraries are using CDL today and communities and librarians love it. We were told that Congress wants to hear more. To tell your story of how CDL has helped your community (e.g., did you find the genealogy you were looking for or the book you needed for a school project?) and why you love CDL, leave a comment below or contact lila at archive dot org.
The books of the 20th century are largely not online. They are mostly not available from even the biggest booksellers. And, libraries who have collected hard copies of these books have not been able to deliver them in a cost-efficient, simple, digital form to their patrons.
The way libraries could fill that gap is to adopt and deliver a controlled digital lending service. The Internet Archive is trying to do its part but needs others to join in.
The Internet Archive has worked with 500 libraries over the last 15 years to digitize 3.5 million books. But based on copyright concerns the selection has often been restricted to pre-1923 books. We need complete libraries and comprehensive access to nurture a well-informed citizenry. The following graph shows the number of books digitized by the Internet Archive, binned by decade:
Up until 1923 the graph shows our collection increasing and mirroring the rise in publications.Then it dips and slows because of concerns and confusion about copyright protections for books published after that date. It picks up again in the 1990s because these books are more readily available and separate funding has helped us digitize some recent modern books Nevertheless, the end result is that the gap is big – the digital world is missing a huge chunk of the 20th Century.
Users can’t even fill that gap by buying the books from that time period. According to a recent paper by Professor Rebecca Giblin, the commercial life of a book is typically exhausted 1.4 to 5 years from publication; some 90% of titles become unavailable in physical form within just two years. Most older books are therefore not available to be purchased in either physical or digital form. The following graph, pulled from a study by Professor Paul Heald, shows books by decade that are available on Amazon.com. It shows that the world’s largest bookseller has the same huge gap – the 20th century is simply missing.
The 20th Century represents a significant portion of published knowledge – approximately one-third of all books – as shown in the graph below. These books are largely unavailable commercially, BUT they are not completely lost. Many of these books are on library shelves, accessible only if you physically visit the library that owns those books. Even if you’re willing to visit, those books might still not be accessible. Libraries, pressed to repurpose their buildings, have increasingly moved volumes to off-site storage facilities.
The way to make 20th Century books available to library patrons is to digitize those books and let every library who owns a physical copy lend that book in digital form. This type of service has come to be known as controlled digital lending (CDL). The Internet Archive has been doing this for years. We lend out-of-copyright and in-copyright volumes that we physically own. We’ve reformatted the physical volume, produced a digital version and lend only that digital version to one user at a time. Our experience shows that this responds to a real demand, fills a genuine need satisfactorily, gives new life to older books, and brings important knowledge to a new audience. Check out this case study for CDL involving the book Wasted which figured prominently in the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings.
Our experience has been replicated by other early adopters and providers of a CDL service. Here’s a list of some of them. We believe every library can transform itself into a digital library. If you own the physical book, you can choose to circulate a digital version instead.
We urge more libraries to join Open Libraries and lend digitized versions of their print collections, making more copies of books available for loan and getting more books into the hands of digital readers everywhere.