Magazine article Information Today

Digitization: From Inception to Income

Magazine article Information Today

Digitization: From Inception to Income

Article excerpt

Digitization--converting content in print, microform, images, composition files, or outmoded electronic formats to usable electronic formats--has emerged from a step in the content creation process to a business in its own right.

And digitization was the focus of the spring meeting of the Association of Information and Dissemination Centers (ASIDIC;, which was held from March 12 to 14 in Ft. Myers, Fla. Many companies that once provided simple "data entry" or "keyboarding" services have now broadened their offerings to include full-fledged format conversion and other value-added services including database creation, document management systems, Web site development, and distribution services.

Digitization has changed the world for all players in the electronic content marketplace, not only because of the explosion of content that is available electronically (in which digitization providers play a major role), but because new players (such as Google and Amazon) are wielding significant market power. Following the keynote address, ASIDIC panel discussions examined facets of digitization: content selection, content conversion, rights and permissions, content distribution, partnerships with venture capitalists and investors, and the viewpoint of the user.

Who's Afraid of the Google Wolf?

Steve Abram, vice president of Sirsi-Dynix, aptly titled his keynote address Who's Afraid of the Google Wolf? Since Google has made a major impact on the digitization arena with Google Book Search by digitizing the collections of rive major libraries, Abram believes that content producers must adapt to the current generation's information behavior to succeed. He gave the example of video games, some of which represent extremely large pools of content. Video games are hot about gaming but more about the way people use content. By studying their examples, we can learn how the real world receives information.

Libraries are urged to get connected to the world of social networking and benefit from its experiences. MySpace (http://www.myspace.coin), for example, logs 250,000 users a day, and FaceBook ( has 150,000. These social networks represent a significant population group: 85 percent of today's students have a MySpace account, a trend libraries are urged to track.

Customizing Content Services

Digitization is the foundation of what we're doing with content today. Google and its competitors are catering to today's users by offering customized content services and affordable article delivery. And Google is making a significant bid for the college student market (see College Life, powered by Google at

The number of article downloads from Nature, for example, dramatically increased when its content was accessible on the iTunes site, according to Abram. It will not be long before the technology to extend battery life will fundamentally change the way we live and work. All these changes are geared to the Millennial generation, which Abram called "scary smart and scary different." This is a group that Google has already tuned into (librarians, be afraid!). Information needs to be presented at the lesson level and then integrated into work flow and how people learn. Despite the challenges, Abram showed how libraries remain near to his heart (see photo below), and their success is based on finding a way to cater to the niche markets and areas where companies like Google do not or cannot play.

Content Selection

Most of today's content is in printed form and in such high volume that judicious selections for digitization must be made. Competition and customer demand drive digitization projects. Many database producers, which have moved into delivering full text, have chosen content that will complement their existing product lines. Rights are also a major consideration (see p. …

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