Even the smallest genealogical or historical society can afford an impressive library – if they build it digitally. Space and costs are not the only reasons to consider digital. There are a number of other advantages too:
- information is easily accessible to both local and distant members
- digital publications and records are searchable and can have functional hyperlinks
- also serves as off-site backup for society records collections
- color doesn’t cost extra when publishing digitally.
The easiest way to build your library is to take advantage of an existing platform such as Scribd. A free Scribd account allows you to upload and present all the documents and publications you want. These publications are created using tools you already have such as your word-processing or layout software. Once uploaded, they can be read online or downloaded as PDF documents. When you upload a file, you decide whether it will be a public document – visible to all – or a private document that is only visible to those who have a direct link to the publication.
You can set a price for your publications and sell them via the Scribd store. Scribd will handle all the presentation, sales transaction and customer support efforts for a 20% commission.
Scribd also supports revisions. Go to the edit document screen for that document and follow the steps to upload a revision which will replace the existing version. Scribd even keeps track of your revision history allowing you to revert to a previous one if you wish. And, if it’s a publication being sold, those who have already purchased it can download the revision at no charge.
What to publish?
Your society’s quarterly journals are a good place to start. Begin with the current issue. Upload the finished publication and make the members’ edition available as a private document. Upload a second version as the public edition and put a price on it. When you post a publication for sale, you can define which pages will appear in the “preview” displayed in your Scribd profile. Include the table of contents for that edition along with a page describing your society and how to join.
Don’t stop with just the current quarterlies. Collect the digital files for any back issues that were created using computers and begin adding them to your Scribd library. Again, set a price and use the preview to display the contents of each edition. Include links on your society web site to your Scribd profile and individual publications.
What about those quarterlies that were published before the days of desktop computers? It will take time and effort to scan and prepare them to include in your library at Scribd. Even if sales of your recent publications aren’t breaking records, it might still be worth the effort. Why? Because once they are digitized and posted on Scribd, you’ve also got an off-site backup of these publications protecting your society from disaster.
Don’t stop with just the quarterlies either. What about the transcribed records your members have spent hours collecting, the cemetery inventories and other publications created with society support? Scribd will not only protect them from disaster, but also make it easier for distant members to access them.
You aren’t restricted to for sale publications only. This is also a good place to post your bylaws, newsletters, new member packages, forms and fact sheets.
One last Scribd goodie you might find interesting . . . You can embed a publication on a web page in much the same way you embed a YouTube video. Below you’ll find a family history I’ve been working on for some time. Since this is a free publication, you can view it in its entirety. Publications for sale will only display the designated preview pages until the reader purchases it.