The Life and Afterlife of History E-Books

General Issues

We all know how long paper can last - most historians have at one time or another seen paper documents dating from the 14th century or earlier - and we also have some idea about how long other media last. The microfilm and microfiche have been estimated to have a life of from 20 years (diazo) to 300 years (silver halide); the life of a CD-ROM is estimated at somewhere between ten and twenty-five years. The difference with a Web site is that while it might last forever, it can also disappear overnight. Maintaining a web site may not take constant vigilance, but it does require that the elements are put in place for the continued existence of the site. By selecting DLPS as the space where the web site files will reside, the ACLS History E-Book Project has designated one of the oldest, most experienced, and longest-running of the digital library spaces. The number and importance of the files residing there, in addition to HistoryEbook, and the affiliation of DLPS with the University of Michigan, guarantee a commitment to the long-term continuation of the site and also guarantee that if it is necessary to change the electronic space for the HistoryEbook Library, the transition will be well planned and practical.

While the History E-Book Project has received initial funding for a five-year period, ACLS aims through the success of the first phase to guarantee the continuation of the HistoryEbook Library or to plan with the participating presses for the migration of these files to another permanent electronic spaces should that need arise.