Books.Files: Assessing Digital Assets in the Book Industry for Scholarly Use

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Books.Files: Assessing Digital Assets in the Book Industry for Scholarly Use is a project to assess the potential for the archival collection and scholarly study of digital assets associated with today’s trade publishing and bookmaking. Books.Files was generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as a collaboration between MITH and the Book Industry Study Group.

The fact is that nearly all printed books now begin—and for many practical purposes end—their lifecycles as digital files that are produced and managed by designers, editors, publishers, packagers, and printers. The printed book that we hold in our hands is just one of the outputs that can be derived from these digital assets, which are also used to produce ebooks and Web-ready texts. In particular, the role of Adobe InDesign and other software tools is not well understood outside of the industry. And yet, this is where the book stops being a manuscript and starts becoming a book, by way of its transformation into a prescribed set of digital assets which in addition to the text may include stylesheets, fonts, metadata, images, and other design elements.

Led by principal investigator Matthew Kirschenbaum, this project represents the first organized attempt to put ambassadors from the scholarly communities traditionally invested in safeguarding and studying the material history of bookmaking into contact and conversation with thought leaders and influencers from the contemporary publishing world. The centerpiece of the project will be a convening to bring those figures together in New York City in early 2018;  Kirschenbaum’s efforts will also be supported by site visits to observe the bookmaking process as it unfolds across different settings, and interviews with industry experts. Findings for scholars, archivists, and publishers will be presented in a white paper made publicly available in late 2018.

Inquiries about Books.Files may be sent to Matthew Kirschenbaum.

20172018| Director: Matthew Kirschenbaum| Sponsor: | Topics: , , | Partner: Book Industry Study Group (BISG)|