This week, the IPRES group held its Sixth International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects in San Francisco, hosted by the California Digital Library. The program—which looks at traditional and non-traditional media, such as blogs, IRs, and research data—is just one example of the need for continued support for preservation and highlights the number of good approaches worthy of formalization and promotion as best practices in the community. We'll have a report on the meeting from Priscilla Caplan in the Fall issue of Information Standards Quarterly (ISQ).
Finding out about new projects and effective approaches to digital preservation provides us with some clues forward. For example, just last week Roger Schonfeld & Ross Housewright at Ithaka S+R, the strategy and research arm of ITHAKA, published a research report on What to Withdraw? Print Collections Management in the Wake of Digitization. This interesting report presents libraries with a framework for selecting print titles that may reasonably be withdrawn from their collections, while addressing the potential impact on long-term preservation. The report concludes: "For journal collections that are available digitally, the online version provides for virtually all access needs, leaving print versions to serve a preservation role and therefore be required in far fewer numbers." However, because many publishers still rely on the print-and-online revenue mix, actions by the library community to cancel print versions would certainly have a financial impact on publishers. In some ways, the argument for preservation copies was among the last bastions for a robust print collection. This report questions those presumptions and many libraries, whose budgets and space needs are squeezed, will find some comfort in this report's recommendations. Publishers, unfortunately, won't.
The role of preservation by libraries, particularly for that content which is "born digital"—without a print counterpart—has been increasingly visible recently. In August, we touched briefly on the proposed change to the Library of Congress's mandatory deposit rules for online-only content. Initial feedback to the ruling has been submitted from a broad range of stakeholders—publishers, libraries, software developers, photographers, and creators of musical works—and is available on the Copyright Office website. The Office has extended its final deadline for receipt of comments until October 16th. I encourage you to take a look at the comments already submitted, which provide much food for thought on the preservation issues for this electronic only content.
These cross-cutting projects all have a central theme: the need for community best practices and improved preservation standards for digital content. The publishing industry was quick to note that the preservation of the "long tail" of content would require significant standardization and best practices. In many ways, standardizing around some common file formats, such as NISO's newly approved Standardized Markup for Journal Articles project (based on what is commonly known as the NLM DTD) will go a long way toward facilitating both preservation and long-term access to journal content. Other standards are also addressing file formats, such as the International Digital Publishing Forum's EPUB standard for e-books and similar content. While there is no expectation that every publisher will use the same production formats, narrowing them down to several standardized options will help to solve some of the problems that preservation of content presents. Certainly, there are other areas—such as packaging, metadata, and digital rights management—that need some work in order for us to find more comprehensive solutions. But, with the work underway at NISO and in the community at large, we'll be a step closer to addressing some of these bigger issues.