Digitizing or digitization is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or a signal (usually an analog signal) by a discrete set of its points or samples. The result is called digital representation or, more specifically, a digital image, for the object, and digital form, for the signal. Strictly speaking, digitizing means simply capturing an analog signal in digital form. For a document the term means to trace the document image or capture the “corners” where the lines end or change direction.


The term is often used to describe the scanning of analog sources (such as printed photos or taped videos) into computers for editing, but it also can refer to audio (where sampling rate is often measured in kilohertz) and texture map transformations. In this last case, as in normal photos, sampling rate refers to the resolution of the image, often measured in pixels per inch.

Digitizing is the primary way of storing images in a form suitable for transmission and computer processing, whether scanned from two-dimensional analog originals or captured using an image sensor-equipped device such as a digital camera, tomographical instrument such as a CAT scanner, or acquiring precise dimensions from a real-world object, such as a car, using a 3D scanning device.

Digitizing is central to making a digital representations of geographical features, using raster or vector images, in a geographic information system, i.e., the creation of electronic maps, either from various geographical and satellite imaging (raster) or by digitizing traditional paper maps or graphs (vector).

“Digitization” is also used to describe the process of populating databases with files or data. While this usage is technically inaccurate, it originates with the previously-proper use of the term to describe that part of the process involving digitization of analog sources such as printed pictures and brochures before uploading to target databases.


There are many collaborative digitization projects throughout the United States. Two of the earliest projects were the Collaborative Digitization Project in Colorado and NC ECHO – North Carolina Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, based at the State Library of North Carolina.

These projects establish and publish best practices for digitization and work with regional partners to digitize cultural heritage materials. Additional criteria for best practice have more recently been established in the UK, Australia and the European Union. Wisconsin Heritage Online is a collaborative digitization project modeled after the Colorado Collaborative Digitization Project. Wisconsin uses a wiki to build and distribute collaborative documentation.

Georgia’s collaborative digitization program, the Digital Library of Georgia, presents a seamless virtual library on the state’s history and life, including more than a hundred digital collections from 60 institutions and 100 agencies of government. The Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative based at the University of Georgia Libraries.


Digital preservation in its most basic form is a series of activities maintaining access to digital materials over time. Digitization in this sense is a means of creating digital surrogates of analog materials such as books, newspapers, microfilm and videotapes. Digitization can provide a means of preserving the content of the materials by creating an accessible facsimile of the object in order to put less strain on already fragile originals. For sounds, digitization of legacy analogue recordings is essential insurance against technological obsolescence.

The prevalent Brittle Books issue facing libraries across the world is being addressed with a digital solution for long term book preservation. For centuries, books were printed on wood-pulp paper, which turns acidic as it decays. Deterioration may advance to a point where a book is completely unusable. In theory, if these widely circulated titles are not treated with de-acidification processes, the materials upon those acid pages will be lost forever. As digital technology evolves, it is increasingly preferred as a method of preserving these materials, mainly because it can provide easier access points and significantly reduce the need for physical storage space.

Google, Inc. has taken steps towards attempting to digitize every title with “Google Book Search”. While some academic libraries have been contracted by the service, issues of copyright law violations threaten to derail the project. However, it does provide – at the very least – an online consortium for libraries to exchange information and for researchers to search for titles as well as review the materials.

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