Back in October, I attended a TEI workshop at Brown and THATCamp New England, also conveniently at Brown in one very busy week. I’m in arrears in terms of blogging about either of these experiences (both great!), but I wanted to share one slide that I found tremendously useful from the TEI workshop:
I think we sometimes imagine that developing digital archives is free and instantaneous, or at least much faster and cheaper than traditional book production. No one would imagine that a single scholar could edit and publish all of Dickens’s novels in a year, but somehow we imagine that a digital edition of all the novels could go up in the same time span. This slide explains the cost and expertise necessary to producing digital archives, which range on the left hand side from very inexpensive (you and your computer and presumably a lot of expertise on your part) to $200,000 a year for a large scale project. I found it to be a salutary reminder that these things aren’t free!
On a practical level, this was also a useful moment for me to think through some of the aims of my current digital project, a reader of primary sources in nineteenth-century disability. TEI has some amazing capabilities, but for a student edition of excerpted primary texts which is intended to introduce readers to the text, then give them directions for further reading, this level of mark-up might be overkill. It seems more appropriate to sink this time and expense into a full scholarly edition of a work that is not otherwise widely accessible.
There’s lots to think about in terms of cost-benefit analysis in planning a digital project. I’ve found that being aware of all the DH tools that are out there, and picking the appropriate one for your audience, capabilities, and budget seems to be a huge part of the battle.