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Springer Book Archives Makes Its Debut
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Posted On January 28, 2013


In 1842, the Illustrated London News (the world’s first illustrated weekly newspaper) rolled off the presses, the University of Notre Dame was founded, and Karl Marx became editor-in-chief of Rheinische Zeitung.

Much has happened around the world since the 1840s, and the Springer Book Archives (SBA) is capturing and chronicling the historic print highlights that have happened since then. This new online book collection from Springer Business+Science Media, which officially debuted days ago at ALA Midwinter, represents Springer’s ongoing commitment to the scientific research community by digitizing about 100,000 books dating from the 1840s. SBA’s first release of 37,000 English-language books, many of which were previously out of print, went live in late January, and more than 63,000 other titles will be released throughout 2013.

“The Springer Book Archives link the past, present, and future of scholarly research with anytime, anywhere access,” says Olga Chiarcos, senior project manager at Springer. This digitization project is a big step in Springer’s overall strategy of making nearly all of Springer’s published materials available online, she says. Not all of Springer’s books will be available online, but Chiarcos reports that the collection will be as complete as possible.

Springer CEO Derk Haank noted that SBA is the “culmination of years of planning, scanning and converting our historic titles to digital format … to make those titles, previously unavailable to researchers accessible, and breathe new life into the discoveries that have powered scientific progress.”

The first of SBA’s digitization initiatives began in November 2010. When completed by the end of 2013, SBA will boost Springer’s content threefold on the new SpringerLink platform. In addition to the online versions, the titles will also be available in softcover print and MyCopy print-on-demand (POD). The SBA collection will be divided almost equally between English- and German-language titles, though some works in other languages will be represented. As each title was scanned, imperfections or markings were removed, illustrations were converted into high-resolution digital images, and content was made full-text searchable on any device.

By the end of 2012, Springer had finished migrating the last of its customers to its state-of-the-art SpringerLink platform that offers improved speed, ease of use, and a single point of access. As SBA is integrated into the platform, customers will have access to the SBA collection, as well as Springer’s more than 2 million journal articles and about 100,000 books. Since the platform is based on agile technology, the Springer development team can continue to improve the user experience quickly as needed.

Among SBA’s key highlights:

Subject collection: SBA currently offers 12 subject collections: behavioral science; biomedical and life sciences; business and economics; chemistry and materials science; computer science; earth and environmental science; engineering; humanities, social sciences, and law; mathematics and statistics; medicine; physics and astronomy; and professional and applied computing.

Licensing options: Springer offers flexible licensing options, from single site for standard, academic, and corporate users as well as options for multisite and consortia.

Content features: Titles are scanned in black mode (600 dpi); illustrations are scanned separately and then added to the text files. Among the works published by Springer and its imprints were by renowned scientists Marie Curie, Werner von Siemens, Rudolf Diesel, and Karl Scheel.

Ebook features: Titles in Springer’s collection, which are available as e-reader-compatible PDFs, are DRM-free and feature a table of contents and references. Book chapters will be available as pay-per-view options at the same price as its other ebook chapters ($29.95).

Benefits for librarians: Features include free MARC records, COUNTER-compliant usage statistics, titles to boost virtual library collections, DOIs at chapter and title levels, and greater access to rare books without limitations on printing, downloading, or number of simultaneous users.

Benefits for researchers: The collection taps into and links past scientific discoveries and historical precedents and provides access to previously out-of-print titles.

For most of 2012, books for SBA were digitized at a rate of 5,000 per month, says Chiarcos, but getting all the books digitized for the collection wasn’t easy. Rights, permissions, and access to the actual print editions proved to be challenging. Though some of the early titles are in the public domain, most of the others weren’t.

For rights and permissions, Chiarcos says that Springer editors worked directly with the authors or their legal heirs in working out the details. “When we explained what we were doing, most of the authors were OK with it,” she says. “And yes, a small percentage of authors had strong opinions, and we respect this and didn’t include them.” Tracking down other authors or heirs involved extensive digging and research. Chiarcos says Springer also used multiple channels to get the word out to authors so as many titles as possible will be included in SBA.

Springer’s long publishing history with 50 different imprints and related mergers and acquisitions over the years also made it difficult to determine what titles actually belonged to Springer, says Chiarcos. Legacy imprints acquired by Springer include Vieweg, Teubner, Birkhaüser Boston and Plenum, and others. “Many of these books were published in an analog age when some records have since disappeared,” she says. So that meant the Springer team spent time doing additional research and tracking MARC data, along with text and data mining.

To access some titles that weren’t in its own archives, Springer collaborated with the German National Library. The library shared some of its books in exchange for help with the library’s ongoing digitization initiatives. Once Springer and the German National Library worked out an agreement, Chiarcos says Springer brought in its team and equipment, worked alongside the library staff, and shared Springer’s best practices in the digitization process.

Chiarcos points to the value of keeping such titles in this archive alive. Among some of the treasures in the collection are Rudolph Diesel’s work on the diesel engine, Niels Bohr’s Über den Bau der Atome, and the first book by Alvin E. Roth, the 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences. After Roth won the Nobel Prize, Chiarcos says Springer received many requests to have his 1979 book translated into multiple languages. However, the book had since been out of print. SBA made it possible to gain access to the book and bring the title back into circulation.

In fact, the accomplished works of more than 200 Nobel Prize winners are now part of SBA to ensure that such seminal works are not lost over time, says Chiarcos. For the Springer product development team, the victories come in all sizes: “During our work on the project, we came to realize that great minds don’t go out of print; they go online.”


Barbara Brynko is editor-in-chief of Information Today.

Email Barbara Brynko
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