As research libraries and archives are discovering, “born-digital” materials are much more complicated and costly to preserve than anticipated, reports the New York Times. Among the archival material from Salman Rushdie currently on display at Emory University in Atlanta are inked book covers, handwritten journals, and four Apple computers. The 18 gigabytes of data they contain seemed to promise future biographers and literary scholars a digital wonderland: comprehensive, organized, and searchable files, quickly accessible with a few clicks. But like most Rushdian paradises, this digital idyll has its own set of problems. Electronically produced drafts, correspondence, and editorial comments are ultimately just a series of digits written on floppy disks, CDs, and hard drives—all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned, acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore. All of this means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it, and how to make that material accessible. “It’s certainly one of those issues that keeps a lot of people awake at night,” said Anne Van Camp, the director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and a member of a task force on the economics of digital preservation formed by the National Science Foundation, among others…

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