Pet Book 4: Digitizing Books

It appears that my book, Arctic Explorations by Elisha Kent Kane, has been digitized in a different edition on sponsored by the University of Toronto. The higher quality versions are photos of the original pages, certainly from a different edition than the one in the Northeastern Special Collections. It has a different cover and different title pages, though the content is much the same. There is also a really bad full text version that can be copied and pasted from the website, but it seems as though they had a computer pick up with words rather than an actual human sitting down and typing up the page like at the Women Writers Project. The full text version is very difficult to read because there is a lot of gibberish. The photo PDF is fine to look at and read but if you like to interact with your digital text like Ella said in class, it won’t be very valuable to you because you can’t do that. There is also a Kindle edition that is possibly even worse than the other two because it is a mix of both of them, but not in an advantageous way.

In addition, it appears that a reprint edition is available from Amazon that features a digital “Look inside…” if you are interested in purchasing the book. While there isn’t a full Kindle edition available from Amazon, the “Look inside…” features images of the first pages through chapter 2 and it is simply a modern reprint of the original edition. Still, you cannot read the whole thing digitally through Amazon, so you’d have to order the reprint anyway.

It also appears that a couple of the engravings from the text have been digitized and made available online by themselves, though nowhere near all three hundred of them. The most popular are two that feature Elisha Kent Kane himself, though not the frontispiece that has him in profile. This is probably because he looks very prim and proper in the frontispiece, while he’s covered in furs and looks like an explorer in the others.

I thought the lack of proper digitization was interesting because of an article I read from Outside magazine that included an interview with an author who wrote a book about Elisha Kent Kane. In it, the author Todd Balf says, “It is ironic that we say that we don’t know much about him, because he left such a long paper trail. His journals, books, magazine articles, drawings, sketches, maps—they really influenced explorers of the period.” After a little more digging, I found that BYU has boxes upon boxes of his family’s papers in their special collections, yet the most I have access to is a description of what they are. Balf also says, “You can’t help but enjoy reading [his journals]—his writing’s marvelous. A lot of journals from that period do seem dated, but he had a really distinctive voice. You also get the sense that he was truly enjoying himself.” I thought this comment was really interesting because it makes me wonder why we don’t have more access to his writing, and—by extension—why so many people don’t know about him (myself included until we started this project). I think especially with things like his handwritten letters and journals, it would be useful to have a photo version and a transcribed version next to each other on the website, which is one thing that the internet makes really easy as opposed to trying to print it in a book like that, especially since the printed book actually transfers over quite well as a PDF, even if it isn’t quite editable yet. I think eventually the internet will become a much more accessible and easy place to gain access to materials like this book that don’t have such a wide availability unlike the books that are printed today.

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