From the private works of James Joyce to a copyrighted periodical of an aspiring chemist, thousands of unique books and manuscripts from the Cornell Library collection will be digitized and made available to the world through an expanded partnership between the University and Amazon.com.
The program allows anyone to purchase copies of the materials through Amazon’s BookSurge Print-on-Demand service.
Even with the growing development of e-book technology, Anne Kenney, Carl A. Kroch university librarian, believes that the printed word will always be around because people “still hold an abiding love for [printed] books.”
“Cornell has been investing in this collection for years … the intrinsic value of books cannot be converted to an actual dollar value,” said Oya Rieger, associate University librarian, Digital Library and Information Technologies.
The initiative to make Cornell library’s unique and rare collections available began in 2006 when the University partnered with Microsoft for mass digitization funding.
Over 6,000 library books were scanned cover-to-cover and made available online to purchase through Amazon and other public domains. As the partnership between Amazon and Cornell expands, over 80,000 titles will now be added to the list of print-on-demand collections.
“It’s just like buying a book on Amazon … you’re buying a copy of the actual book from the University library,” said Fiona Patrick, services coordinator, DLIT.
Kenney said that the University receives a “modest profit” for each book that is purchased through Amazon.
Students, among other online users, can now browse through the University’s library catalog, read customer reviews, and fill their shopping carts with copies of ancient manuscripts or contemporary journals.
“Providing Amazon.com and other customers access to the breadth of Cornell University Library’s catalog … not only increases the selection of books available to customers but also enables Cornell to improve access to rare works, generate revenue to fund digitization and preservation initiatives and build brand awareness,” Nick Loeffler, who works for business development at Amazon, stated in an email.
When Amazon receives a user’s request for a book, it prints the digital copy that Cornell has produced, binds it and ships it.
“Imagine you find a 400 page book in the library. And as a scholar, you may want to have a hard copy of it on your own bookshelf to use as a reference … [through digitization], we can give you a hard copy of that book.” Rieger said.
Not only does Cornell’s POD initiative provide hard copies of library books for students, but it also allows faculty members to have their own copyrighted material digitized and printed. For instance, once faculty members copyright their research, they can request that Cornell digitize it and make it available through print-on-demand. Prior to the Amazon partnership, Cornell was unable to provide faculty members with this option.
Print-on-demand can also be used to meet the academic needs of Cornell students, Kenney said. If the library runs out of a textbook for a particular course, it can immediately place a print-on-demand order for the textbook and have it shipped to the library the next day.
“We’ve made these books into digital content so the world of scholars and students can explore it. There are no limitations,” Rieger said. “Anyone can access these books.”
By expanding its partnership with Amazon, Cornell is also expanding its resources worldwide, Rieger said.
The University seeks out collections for the program that explore a variety of disciplines, ranging from the humanities to the sciences, she added.
“As a land grant university, we pride ourselves in accessibility to students,” Kenney said.