Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Digitize Theological Libraries!

As I was reading of some of the digitizing projects going on in the world at the Vatican and elsewhere, I thought I would both ask and express my sense that the worlds best theological libraries should be actively working together with publishers to digitize all theological books and resources.

1. We know where things are headed. One day, you will be able to "check out" any book that has ever been written online. Google, Amazon, Logos, they've already done most of the work. The days when you have to have a physical library are numbered.  It's all a question of time and details.

2. But there are significant details. There's no motivation for a scholar or writer to write, there's no motivation for a publisher to publish (their ways are also in serious jeopardy, as anyone can self-publish), if everything written is free on the web.  It's like writing songs and such. There has to be some opportunity for profit or we end up with the equivalent of Eastern Europe in books and music (meaning depressing doldrum).

3. One answer is for access to such books being a matter of membership in libraries, who pay some subscription fee. Or perhaps authors get a certain royalty for every time someone "checks out" their book. Perhaps libraries become the new publishers or, in transition, libraries and publishers get into bed with each other. This already happens when libraries subscribe to certain series.

4. I'm sure some of you out there know more than I do about what is already going on. In particular, what if Brill, Mohr/Siebeck, Cambridge, T & T Clark, and all the pricey international monograph series were to form an electronic consortium to which libraries could subscribe?

Where is the breakthrough going to happen?

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