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Digitization basics

Digitization is the reformatting of a tangible, analog object into a computer file. Reformatting can also include conversion from one digital format to another.

Best practice is to reformat once, the right way, saving time (thus money), wear and tear on originals, equipment, etc.

Digitization is not the same as preservation, and disposing of physical items once digitized is not considered best practice.

Basic process
  1. Create master (uncompressed) file.
    1. For analog content: Scan/sample
    2. For born-digital content: Convert
  2. Name the file in a consistent way.
  3. Perform quality control; edit as needed.
  4. Save master on stable, long-term storage.
  5. Create derivative or access file.
  6. Share access files as needed.

This information courtesy of the Public Library Partnerships Project.


Scan at the best resolution you can afford to store
  • Resulting digital file should have 4000 to 8000 pixels across the long dimension, excluding mounts and borders.
  • Calibrate monitor and scanner according to manufacturer's instructions

Still images

Recommended resolution

Recommended file type

Manuscripts and other text

300 ppi minimum

PDF (*.pdf)


400-800 ppi

TIFF (*.tif)

Graphic materials

600-800 ppi

TIFF (*.tif)

600 ppi (< 36") or 300-400 ppi (> 36")

TIFF (*.tif)
Audio 96,000 kHz minimum resolution
24-bit minimum bit depth

See: audio-visual/

For more on digital reformatting and file management, see:

This information courtesy of the Public Library Partnerships Project.

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