Three examples: 1000 to 100,000 pages

Typical small collection: 500 to 1000 pages

Most NGOs have 500 to 1000 pages to scan. This volume can be OCRed in-house if motivated volunteers are available.

Scanning

The first step is to scan the publications to generate a high-quality TIFF file of each page, and a separate line-art, grey-scale or color bitmap image for each illustration. Assuming that 1000 pages have to be scanned, this might represent a part-time job of about one month—just for scanning. The TIFF files would consume 60 to 80 Mb of hard-disk space, and a good policy is to create a CD-R containing these files. A low-cost flatbed scanner of $100 to $300 will be sufficient for the job. Scanning can be done after working hours or during the weekends by a volunteer in the office or at home.

OCR

The second step is OCR by another volunteer, or team of volunteers, skilled in language and correction. The TIFF files can either be shared between computers, or one computer can be used for the entire job. Typically, it will take five or six months of part-time labor (e.g. 20 hours a week) to convert 1000 pages into perfect Word or HTML documents.

Outsourcing

An alternative is to outsource the scanning and OCR process. It would probably cost $1500 to $2000 to convert everything into perfect Word and HTML files.

All publications from an organization: 5000 pages

Many larger organizations have archives of around 5000 pages of currrent or out-of print books, journals, newsletters, grey literature, etc.

Scanning

This is too much for a flat-bed scanner. Scanning should either be outsourced (approximately $400 for 5000 pages) or a sheet-feeder scanner purchased (approximately $900). Alternatively, a more expensive scanner could be bought together with a few other institutions or NGOs ($6000 costs divided by the number of participants). All 5000 pages in TIFF format will take about 300 to 400 Mb of hard-disk space. Again, a good policy is to create a CD-R containing these files.

OCR

The second step is OCR by another volunteer, or team of volunteers, skilled in OCR and correction. Again, several computers might be used, or one computer for the whole job. It would take 25 to 30 months of half-time labor (assuming 20 hours a week) to convert 5000 pages into perfect Word or HTML. In practice this is too long and too computer-intensive to manage on a volunteer basis. One would have to pay volunteers, monitor them for performance and quality, provide adequate space, etc, in order to have the job finished within reasonable time at a high level of quality.

Alternatively one could create image PDF files, which would take 300 to 400 Mb of space and would be harder to download over the Internet.

Outsourcing

An alternative is to outsource the scanning and OCR processes. It would probably cost $7500 to $10,000 to convert everything into perfect Word and HTML files.

A small library: 100,000 pages

Larger organizations, universities, governments, and specialized libraries might have a whole library to digitize—say 100,000 pages. The first issue to consider is the copyright status of the publications. If they are not in the public domain, explicit permission to digitize them must be obtained from the copyright holders. You should also check whether the files are already available digitally.

Scanning

The volume is too high for a sheet-feed scanner. Scanning should either be outsourced ($8000 for 100,000 pages), or a more expensive scanner purchased together with a few other institutions or NGOs ($6000 shared between the participants). 100,000 pages in TIFF format will take 6 to 8 Gb of hard-disk space. The best plan is to create a set of CD-R copies containing these files.

OCR

The second step is OCR (or creation of PDF files for less widely used documents). It would take 500 to 700 months of half-time labor to convert 100,000 pages into perfect Word or HTML. This is impossible to realize with volunteers, and the job must be done on a professional basis.

To save cost, some of the less-frequently-used pages—say 80% or 80,000 pages—could be transformed into PDF, and the other 20,000 pages into Word and HTML. The PDFs would take 4 to 6 Gb space and be harder to download on the Internet, but would cost only $0.2 per page to create by a professional organization (total of $16,000). If 80,000 PDF files were created from TIFF files by volunteers using PDF conversion programs like Adobe Acrobat, 10 to 20 months of part-time work would be necessary on a powerful computer.

Outsourcing

An alternative is to outsource the work. If the 80% PDF and 20% HTML mix were maintained, the PDF would cost around $16,000 and the HTML $30,000 to $40,000—a total budget of around $50,000. If everything were OCRed, it would cost $150,000 to $200,000 to convert the entire collection into perfect Word and /HTML files.