Picture of some coin

Flickr CC image by Mukumbra

One of the key outputs of the LIFE-SHARE Project was the case study at the University of Leeds: a cost comparison of physical conservation versus digital preservation. We analysed a sample of 200 monographs – French texts, dating from between 1890 and 1970, many of which were printed on acid paper.

Our findings were that destructive digitisation – which is to say digitising without applying a high level of handling restrictions, and disposing of the books afterwards – was the most cost-effective way of preserving the sample over time. This is despite the fact that it was many hundred percent more expensive than physical conservation in the first instance; once storage costs were factored in.

Clearly this method would not be applicable to collections whose books have intrinsic value, but it will certainly be a useful finding to inform future preservation strategy.