David Lange offers these thoughts on the digitization of back issues of commercial numismatic publications. Thanks. -Editor
I imagine most readers of The E-Sylum have been following the misfortunes of F+W Media, the parent company of Krause Publications. With
most of the editorial talent having already retired and recent reports of impending layoffs, the future doesn't look good for some long-running
numismatic periodicals. Though this is bad news for the hobby in a general sense, there may be something of a silver lining to it.
I visit the Newman Numismatic Portal frequently, and I'm always frustrated that my searches turn up page after page of "Restricted"
articles from commercial publications. There is an immense amount of valuable research material within the back issues of Coin World,
Numismatic News, Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, Coins Magazine, etc. The publishers of these periodicals are loathe to give away
for free material that could be scanned and put online for a subscription fee, but what is the likelihood of that ever happening? In a time when
staffs and budgets are shrinking, how can these publications commit resources to scanning tens of thousands of pages? It's unlikely that there
would be enough paid subscribers to justify this use of resources, so these back issues remain as inaccessible as they were before the internet.
If KP does go out of business or simply suspends its numismatic publications, there may no longer be an impediment to putting its several
titles online. Even if the company does not have complete hard copy files of all issues, there are people in the hobby who are willing and able to
fill in the gaps. The NNP staff is capable of performing the scanning, so there's little cost to the publisher beyond letting go of its mythical
revenue stream. All that is needed is permission from F+W/KP to put the material online. While the KP drama is still playing out, this remains a
As for the other commercial publishers who are holding onto their back files as potential sources of revenue, they must ask themselves whether
they will ever be in a position to provide the manpower and other resources to make this a reality. As the field of numismatic journalism continues
to evolve, I believe that is ever more unlikely.
The Newman Portal will not publish copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner. In the case of the vast majority of
publications on NNP the copyright holders (most of whom are nonprofit specialty groups) have graciously allowed the use of their back issues. The
outpouring of support from the hobby has been tremendous - U.S. clubs that do not participate are the exception rather than the rule. Participating
clubs do it to assist researchers as well as their own members, and to have a presence that can attract new members to their organization - each page
on the portal is like a free ad for the publisher.
While we're all hopeful that buyers can be found for the Krause books and periodicals, even if publication were to stop, someone is likely to
end up owning rights to the back catalog - whoever has the winning bid for the assets in bankruptcy court. That owner could decide to allow NNP to
publish the material. Or not.
I would note that digitization of the material itself is only a small part of the cost of making older material available. In order to monetize
the asset software systems are required to manage a web site, handle accounts and password issues, collect payments, etc. As Dave noted, the
potential revenue could be small in relation to the expense. All the more reason to allow outdated material to be used freely by the hobby.
A number of years ago David Hall acquired online rights to the back issues of David Bowers' catalogs and publications such as Rare Coin
Review. Thus NNP could not include readable versions of that material. As noted recently, the current management of Professional Coin Grading
Service (PCGS) did agree to allow NNP to display the material as a goodwill gesture to the hobby. -Editor
At the time, Brett Charville, president of PCGS, commented:
"PCGS has received many requests to make this material available to the collecting community. Collector education is an important aspect of
our business and we are pleased to add this content to the collective memory of our hobby. We welcome continued feedback from the community and
appreciate their input on all aspects of our operation."
NNP Project Coordinator Len Augsburger adds:
Newman Portal endeavors to secure permission to present full-view documents whenever possible. In some cases, we consider the content significant
enough that we will scan it on a search-only basis. This at least allows NNP users to know that a resource exists, even if they cannot immediately
access it. We are currently scanning Bank Note Reporter on this basis. We are similarly interested in Numismatic News, and, if an
E-Sylum reader has access to a full run, we'd love to discuss further.
To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NNP ADDS BOWERS & MERENA AUCTION CATALOGS
KRAUSE PUBLICATIONS PARENT FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY
F+W MEDIA MAY LAY OFF 66 AT KRAUSE PUBLICATIONS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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