“As a publisher, when you run out of copies of a book you can basically either reprint it and keep selling it, or you can retire the title, declaring it out of print,” said Greg Albers, Digital Publications Manager for Getty Publications, in an email interview with Hyperallergic. “If it doesn’t make financial sense to reprint and the book goes out of print, the original author or another publisher may choose to pick up the reins and publish a new edition, but more often than not, the book will just sort of disappear. This isn’t a fate anyone wants to see for their books and luckily at the Getty, a decidedly mission-driven organization, we were able to pursue an alternate option. We worked though some legal/copyright issues and released PDFs of the original books, for anyone to read and download, 100% for free.”
At its inception, the library offered just over 250 books — some of which, Albers is quick to mention, are still available for purchase through the Getty store and other retailers. It has since grown to 311 titles.
“That 311 represents a significant chunk of our list,” said Albers, “more than a quarter of the books we’ve ever published. And we’re going to continue adding titles moving forward.”
The virtual catalog includes books across the scope of the Getty’s interests, roughly divided into titles relating to the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Research Institute. Some publications focus on specific artists, others on decorative arts or historical periods, and others on topics as diffuse as Roman gardens, the far Eastern lacquerware tradition of urushi, and the effects of light on materials in collections. Most of the books are in English, but the library also contains some translated volumes in Spanish, French, Japanese, and a few other languages. Albers reported that since the 2014 launch, the Virtual Library has had 398,058 unique downloads of its PDFs.
“Digital or not, that’s a lot of books out in the world!” said Albers. “And I can only presume, in a lot of hands, and in a lot of places around the world that may not have had access to them otherwise.”
Albers characterizes the Virtual Library as not only a way of sharing older books in the collection, but building a model for future work in digital publishing, that releases books in multiple formats for free from the beginning, under Creative Commons licenses. The first of these offerings are already available online, with two more to come in the next few months, and “many more in the pipeline.”
The Getty is not the only institution with an eye on virtual publishing of their catalog. Albers calls out the Met as the first to make this move, now offering 576 books for free download, and the Guggenheim has some 200 books hosted on the Internet Archive. While die-hard bibliophiles know there’s nothing like the real thing, lovers of information and environmental conservation can appreciate the tremendous wealth being offered by these institutions and others.
I won’t bother you with talk about how obscenely decadent and out of touch the Frieze art fair is. And yet…
Curators Tahnee Ahtone, La Tanya S. Autry, Frederica Simmons, Dan Cameron, and Jeremy Dennis offered the public a window into their curatorial processes through the work they produced during their fellowships.
Who says tragedy has to be tragic? Co-presented with National Black Theatre, this fresh, Pulitzer-winning take on a classic centers Black joy and liberation.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Jeremy Dennis presents an exhibition to offer insight into his curatorial process.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Dan Cameron presents an email exhibition to offer insight into his curatorial process.
For the triennial’s eighth edition, work by more than 70 artists is featured in 12 exhibitions and a polyphonic program, installed at various locations throughout the German city.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Frederica Simmons presents an email exhibition to offer insight into their curatorial process.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, La Tanya S. Autry presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
This exhibition explores the work and short-but-impactful life of the groundbreaking ceramic artist. Now on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Tahnee Ahtone presents an email exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
This week: Why does the internet hate Amber Heard? Will Congress recognize the Palestinian Nakba? And other urgent questions.
Artist Dan Jian makes the point that landscapes and memory are one and the same.