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Making the Most of Free, Unrestricted Texts: A first look at the promise of the Text Creation Partnership

By Rebecca Welzenbach


This version of the paper was presented at the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science November 20, 2011. It is an updated and expanded version of the paper I gave at the University of Kansas in September 2011.The Text Creation Partnership (TCP) is a library-based initiative that partners with commercial publishers to create SGML/XML-encoded editions of early print books, specifically, those captured in databases such as ProQuest’s Early English Books Online, Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Readex’s Evans Early American Imprints. Our work is supported by both commercial publishers and libraries, and our business model seeks to balance the interests of both. Central to our mission is the fact that, after a defined period of time during which the commercial publisher has the exclusive right to distribute the texts we produce, these files will be made freely available for anyone to use. In April 2011, the TCP announced that, with the agreement of Gale, restrictions had been removed early from the 2,231 works from ECCO that the TCP keyed and encoded between 2005 and 2009. These are the first TCP texts to be released to the general public. We were by turns pleased and intimidated, proud and embarrassed by the widespread reaction to this announcement. This paper summarizes how the restrictions came to be lifted early, why (we think) it matters, what actions and reactions the TCP has observed in the last six months, and what new challenges--practical and philosophical--lie ahead for our work. We hope to apply what we learn from the ECCO-TCP release to the much larger EEBO-TCP release coming up in 2015. We also hope it will be useful to other projects publishing open editions or texts

Year: 2011
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