Scanning question (Is destruction of old tech docs a moral crime?)

Joseph S. Barrera III joe at
Sun Jul 21 05:16:17 CDT 2019

I'd suggest that in 2019 when bits are cheap and high-quality scanners
nearly as cheap, "crappy quality digital image" is a bit of a straw man.
Yes, I've seen plenty of barely-readable or practically unreadable scans,
but they were made years or decades ago.

What dpi qualifies as not "crappy"? 300dpi? 400? 600?

On Sat, Jul 20, 2019 at 8:00 PM Guy Dunphy via cctalk <cctalk at>

> I'm posting a private email (anonymized) and my reply because it's a
> significant issue.
> >{Note private reply}
> >
> >    > When the scanning process involves destruction of the original work
> >    > ... But if it's a rare document, or even maybe so rare that it's the
> >    > last one, then destroying it now just to produce a digital copy
> >    > inadequate to the aims of cultural preservation - that's a crime.
> >    > One right up there with genocide
> >
> >While I agree that making a non-optimal digital copy in such cases, is,
> >well, non-optimal (because for _many uses_, the basic information is still
> >available, wheras for many important documents, not even that remains),
> >there's no way it's "right up there with genocide" - and if you really
> >think so, you definitely need to examine your sense of scale, because it's
> >seriously defective.
> >
> >       [name removed]
> I agree that when historical documents are lost without even any kind of
> digital copy made, that's the worst.
> However I was pretty careful to preceded that quoted paragraph with
> conditionals.
> Specifically referring to a case where someone has a rare work, that isn't
> in danger of falling apart, and there's no good reason why they couldn't
> wait till better scanning methods became available, and they destroy it to
> produce a crappy quality digital image. Thus ensuring there can never be
> a high quality digital copy and the rare physical original is forever gone.
> That's criminal. A high level crime against humankind. Where it's done in
> bulk to entire collections, it _is_ the cultural equivalent of genocide.
> I don't care if you disagree.
> Could it be that you are upset because you do this (destroy docs), and
> don't
> like to be accused of being a criminal?
> I am sure that the future WON'T take your position on this. They are going
> to be sooo pissed, that so many old works were destroyed and all they have
> left is crappy quality horrible-looking two-tone scans.
> This is _already_ the case with many electronics instrument manuals. There
> are
> so many people who think that the physical manuscript is unimportant, and
> nothing
> matters other than posting a minimally readable smallest-possible-file
> online,
> with the least effort and so it's OK to destroy the original for
> convenience.
> Private reply noted. Still going to repost on the list, as from anon.
> Guy

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