At Berry College, we have a small, very high-quality, very high-functioning academic library, but, for some research purposes, “small” becomes the operative adjective. We simply can’t support the amount or range or depth of material that some major research libraries have to offer. Interlibrary Loan is an excellent option for obtaining books and articles not in our collection, but ILL cannot retrieve books instantaneously.
Fortunately, there are a number of first-rate, digital libraries on the web that merge strong academic collections with open-access. While most of their full-text collections are limited by copyright law to the period prior to 1923, there are a number of later works in the collections for which specific rights and permissions have been obtained and are, therefore, available for use.
Connections to some of the more prominent and useful sites are listed in the right-hand column...
For most research, digital copies of print resources, like scholarly books or journal articles, are pragmatically equivalent to their print counterparts, as long as the ideational texts and editorial controls remain in place. While some digital copies of books exist in a converted HTML format, most are PDFs, which graphically reproduce the text just as it appears in print form. A researcher often opts for the digital version of a text simply because the physical volume is not readily available. That same researcher will be careful to cite the digital version, making it clear to the reader what sort of resource was actually consulted.
A number of academic libraries and research institutions have now established niche collections of digitized or image-stitched books that are publically accessible. These works often draw on rare and unique holdings. An outstanding example, which retains much of the look and feel of the original print work, comes to us from the University of Iowa’s Morris Online Editions. Here, for instance, is the text of William Morris’s Earthly Paradise in digital form…
“HathiTrust is an international community of research libraries committed to the long-term curation and availability of the cultural record. Through their common efforts and deep commitment to the public good, the libraries support the teaching and learning activities of the faculty, students or researchers at their home institutions, and the scholarly needs of the broader public as well.”
The Google Books Project brings together a coterie of major research libraries to provide out-of-print and hard-to-find books in searchable formats. Google likewise partners with individual authors to make contemporary works available online.
Among the first advocates for open-access electronic books, Project Gutenberg offers nearly 42,000 works from its collection for free public consumption. Most of these are available in converted HTML format.
The Internet Archive seeks to house and preserve historical collections in digital format. These include web pages (via the Wayback Machine), videos, audio files, digital images and texts. Books and texts are compiled primarily from other internet resources and accessed by hyperlink.
Note that the sort of web-based, digital libraries described above are rather different from the e-book collections found in the library catalogue at Berry. Like print books, the e-books in the catalogue are proprietarily produced and distributed by publishing houses who control their copyrights. These e-books are not freely available on the web, but, instead, are contracted for use by Memorial Library from specialized vendors like EBL.