Viewing digitised books

The Priory Project is using IIIF conformant standards and technology to give access to our digitised books in a flexible and to the best extent possible permanent way. The International Image Interoperability Framework exists to improve general access to pictures online and produce common tools for enhancing their content.

Previously, online image viewers have tended to develop in isolation to meet specific short-term requirements, each new project creating something that provides as many of the features that it requires as possible, which has lead to much redundancy in developing near-parallel applications. It has also led to many similar applications that just fail to work with each other – the silo problem – with the two frustrating outcomes that a great deal of development effort is wasted on providing similar solutions to similar problems and more importantly, that the end user cannot combine and search across all these different resources.

What the IIIF community has done is to define the requirements in abstract and create open specifications for how to do things (provide zoomable images, manipulate those images, present a series of images as a pageable “book”, transcribe the text in an image, comment on that text and so forth). Anyone developing software, open source or commercial, then follows these standards to create systems and content that can be used by and interact with any other conformant site.

This is particularly helpful for the Priory Project, which aims to gather together books held by a large number of institutions. A common standard gives us all something to follow which means that our content should work together. It also means that others can re-use items digitised for the Project in ways we have not considered in our plans, perhaps based on the contents, decoration or script but just as easily on a discipline that does not yet have the following to digitise its own material or which had not considered medieval texts as within its original scope.