Digital reformatting

Digital reformatting

Digital reformatting is the process of converting analogue materials into a digital format as a surrogate of the original. The digital surrogates perform a preservation function by reducing or eliminating the use of the original. Digital reformatting is guided by established best practices to ensure that materials are being converted at the highest quality.


Imaging Standards

The Library of Congress has been actively reformatting materials for its American Memory project and developed best standards and practices pertaining to book handling during the digitization process, scanning resolutions, and preferred file formats[1]. Some of these standards are:

  • The use of ISO 16067-1 and ISO 16067-2 standards for resolution requirements.
  • Recommended 400 ppi resolution for OCR'ed printed text.
  • The use of 24-bit color when color is an important attribute of a document.
  • The use of the scanning device's maximum resolution for digitally reproducing photographs
  • TIFF as the standard file format.
  • Attachment of descriptive, structural, and technical metadata to all digitized documents.

A list of archival standards for digital preservation can be found here: [1]

Audio standards

The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) has produced guidelines on the creation and preservation of digital from analogue originals[2]. The guidelines cover:

  • selection and preparation of best available copy for digitising
  • optimising signal extraction
  • analog-to-digital converter technical specifications
  • audio digitised at 24-bit word length and a minimum 48,000 samples/sec
  • target audio format: linear PCM Broadcast Wave Format
  • storage recommendations

Cost benefits

Digital formatting programs can be costly and have huge start-up costs, especially if done in-house. A hypothetical case study presented at the 2003 National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH) Symposium [3] quoted a small digitization project as costing $16,332, if outsourced to a vendor, or about $100,000 (to purchase software and hardware for an in-house program). These prices are worth it when one considers the long-term financial benefits of digital reformatting. A cost-benefit study presented by Lee (2001)[4] found that it costs about $5.40 to digitize a 10-page article (with unlimited free duplicates), much less than the total accumulated cost of repeatedly duplicating the physical master with a photocopier.

Function as a preservation strategy

Digital reformatting is not unanimously accepted as a viable, long-term preservation strategy. The Association of Research Libraries recognized digitization as a viable preservation method because of its capture capabilities, reproduction of “the navigational experience of a book,” enhanced accessibility, and the creation of “virtual collections that will support new and creative research made possible only in a digital environment”[5]. As of September 12, 2007, however, OCLC had not recognized digitization and digital reformatting as preservation standards[6].

Digital Reformatting Programs

The Library of Congress has constituted a Preservation Digital Reformatting Program[7]. The Three main components of the program include:

  • Selection Criteria for digital reformatting
  • Digital reformatting principles and specifications
  • Life cycle management of LC digital data

See also


  1. ^ Library of Congress. (2007). Technical Standards for Digital Conversion of Text and Graphic Materials.
  2. ^ IASA (2009) Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects
  3. ^ Pence, D. (2003). Ten Ways to Spend $100,000 on Digitization. The Price of Digitization: New Cost Models for Cultural and Educational Institutions.
  4. ^ Lee, S.D. (2001). Digitization: Is it Worth It? Computers in Libraries, 21 (5).
  5. ^ Arthur, K., Byrne, S., Long, E., Montori, C.Q., and Nadler, J. (2004). Recognizing Digitization as a Preservation Reformatting Method.
  6. ^ Online Computer Library Center. (2007). Can Digitization Replace Microfilm, Or Do We Need Both?
  7. ^ Library of Congress, (2006). Preservation Digital Reformatting Program.

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