Does your book need a last will and testament?

Authors quite like the idea that their book, their legacy, will be available in 500 years and many library customers require long-term preservation in their purchasing agreements. But how often do explicit conversations take place about what happens to a book when those who originally cared for it are no longer around or able to do so?

Long-term digital preservation is a shared interest and responsibility amongst a book's stakeholders. So, in just the way that people need to be explicit about their wishes for who will care for their children in their wills, stakeholders need to talk about and document what will happen to a book after they are no longer around to care for it.

There’s real hope for commissioned and licensed content, as agreements can be used to convey what is meant to happen to ensure the book is protected. Agreements can be made with digital archives such as CLOCKSS, so that book content is deposited and made available in alignment with your wishes. Legal deposit legislation in many countries acts as a safety net, ensuring that works can be collected and preserved by national libraries for future generations. These preservation services complement one another, and can work in harmony.

If you want to feel confident that your book will be properly looked after for the future, then it needs to be preserved in multiple services. With digital preservation, the more copies that exist, the less correlated those copies, the more dependable each copy is and the faster failures get detected and repaired, the safer the book ultimately is for the future.

A trusted archive is one that has demonstrated its ability to preserve content and its usability in the long term. This can be demonstrated through means such as:

  • Relevant certification including peer review by library experts (e.g. CRL TRAC audit, ISO:16363)
  • Demonstrated mandate and funding
  • A provable track record of preserving content
  • Clear, transparent documented agreements, workflows, and processes to ensure long-term access to the content
  • Open provision of information about the content they preserve
  • A succession plan so it is clear what happens to content if the archive goes under

Having worked together to reflect on these issues over the course of 2023, we have some recommendations for all the book creators and book lovers and publishers of the world.

Talk to each other

What do you want for a book after you are no longer actively able to provide it with care? Do you want it forgotten or remembered? Do you want it available always or preserved privately until a distant date?

Work with each other

There are many practical rights challenges that can stymie efforts to ensure an author’s legacy is preserved as part of our shared cultural and intellectual heritage. If you want the book to live on, then think explicitly about where it will be preserved and how it will be made available and how others will know about the steps that will be taken.

Write it down

Book publishers have the digital content and need to be empowered to provide this to the chosen archive. However, they aren’t always easily able to determine what rights they hold in books, and therefore entering into any sort of preservation agreement becomes a bit troublesome because they don’t want to inadvertently violate the rights of an author or other creator, agent, or third-party publisher. Author agreements can vary widely by country and region, publisher rights are sometimes limited by geography, rights can revert to authors, and third-party publishers may have additional rights granted directly by the author or an agent.

Getting started

With this in mind, we have crafted an infographic to illustrate all the ways stakeholder wishes can, and need to be, made known if the book is to become part of our shared cultural and intellectual heritage.

CLOCKSS, as an organization, is dedicated to supporting stakeholders and to help kick starting these important conversations.

So... which Book Will conversation will *you* start today?!

Rebeca Cook (Wiley), Sarah Fricker (IOPP), Clare Hodder (RightsZone), Roxanne Missingham (Australian National University), Lynette Owen (Lynette Owen Consulting), Alison Pope (IOPP), Becky Roberts (Royal Society of Chemistry), Denis Shannon (University of Wyoming), Diane Spivey (Publishing Rights and Contracts Consultant), and Alicia Wise (CLOCKSS)

Scroll to Top