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In the last months some people close to me have heard me praising the democratization of academic research. This is not what generally appears to be the case, however, and in truth, I have to admit that this process is not a general trend but a side product of the proliferation of internet resources, often provided by academic institutions or voluntary organizations. One of these is Archive.org, a site that collects copyright free digital versions of almost everything.

How can this have any democratizing effect on anything whatsoever? In most fields of research, probably it does not. The research that ends up being there is already old, from the beginning of the century, and there are very few fields where that kind of research has any relevance today. I’m happily working in a area of academic research, history, where things do not get old that fast, and even in a sub-field of history called Ancient History, more specifically Classical History, where most of the most important reference collections were begun in the 19th century. Now, not all of these appear on archive.org (Sorry, no CIL there yet! But the Oxyrhyncus papyri are there.), but there is a lot of interesting stuff around there. The democratizing process comes from the fact that most of this stuff is very hard-to-get on print these days. The books were sold out long ago, and before the last ten years or so, the only way to consult them was to make a trip to a library that had already acquired them, hundred years ago or so. This mean, that to even see the important classic studies that even today form a background of the research, or to use some of the still valid manuals and reference collections, you either had to work in a university with such resources or then it was some other subject to study for you.

How does this relate to djvu files, you may be asking? Well, the digitized, old books are offered in many different formats, of which the modern e-book formats are usually useless. PDF is somewhat better, but PDF just isn’t made for this, nor are the readers. Technically, the best format is DJVU, with different raster layers, hidden text for OCR and everything. The files are smaller (as if that did matter these days), and the readers much faster.

The selection of readers is small, though. DjView4 seems most common, and it performs very well in that function, but it has the problem that you cannot add annotation nor bookmarks, which is a nuisance, since the digitized books are often hundreds of pages long, and the versions offered by archive.org do have no such metadata associated with them. A good solution is the program djvusmooth, which can create bookmarks and some other types of metadata, too, and also save these changes to the files. And then you can make your contents and bookmarks for Djview4.

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