The September 2008 Bloodsucker Award: the John Rylands Library

The digital camera is a blessing!  Suddenly it has become possible to take cheap good quality colour digital images.

But you wouldn’t know it, judging from the response of some libraries.  Bear in mind that a microfilm of an entire manuscript used to cost about £30 ($60).

At the moment I’m wandering around looking for manuscripts of the World Chronicle of Elmacin (Al-Makin ibn-Amid) which are complete and of which I can obtain a copy at a reasonable price.  The latter is proving a challenge!

So I’m going to institute the Bloodsucker Award.  I will award it, ad hoc, to institutions in receipt of state funding which in order to make money violate their primary directive; to make books available and promote learning.

The first recipient is the John Rylands Library in Manchester.  A truly sterling effort this one.

“We do hold the MS you enquire about Rylands Arabic MS 239 (43), The History of Ibnul-Amid, 131 leaves, 17 lines to the page. For a complete copy of this item you would need to order 132 openings to be scanned and we could provide the entire item as either jpegs or PDF. The costs for each option are below. “

Note that the PDF means low-grade scans. 

Jpeg                       PDF

132 x £3.00 = 396.00       132 x £1.50 = £198.00

Plus postage = £4.50       Plus postage = £4.50

Plus VAT of £70.09         Plus VAT of £35.44

 Total cost = £470.59       Total cost = £237.94

Double these figures for dollars.

What a fantastic effort!  For the equivalent of a £50 microfilm, charge 5 times that.  For snapping the shutter on a digital camera 113 times — perhaps 3 hours work for a technician, say £20 per hour — charge almost £500!!

Well done the John Rylands for obstructing the cause of research!  Of course the cream of the joke is that these prices don’t actually make them any money; because if you ask a million dollars, and no-one pays it, you don’t get a million dollars, you get nothing.


6 thoughts on “The September 2008 Bloodsucker Award: the John Rylands Library

  1. A great idea! Things like these are really outrageous, and comparable to that other disaster: museums that do not allow visitors to take photos, and instead referring them to expensive catalogs – which never contain photos of the object you want to study at home.

  2. Marvelous! I’d like to nominate the journal “New Testament Abstracts” for the October Bloodsucker Award. Their particularly heinous policy exceeds simple monetary avarice, they actually forbid, yes forbid, anyone but an institution of higher learning from subscribing to their online searchable database via EBSCO publishing. I tried and failed to get subscribed a couple years ago. Evidently they still have the same policy.

  3. Museums should be eligible for the award, I agree.

    The “New Testament Abstracts” issue seems curious, needs more investigation, and I suspect that probably money is at the bottom of it again. Why would they wish to prevent individuals subscribing — again for money — unless they had some financial motive not to?

    Nominations for October are open now.

Leave a Reply