Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Digital Projects Toolkit: In-House vs. Vendor

In-House Digitization vs. Outsourcing Digitization

Overview: In-House Digitization vs. Outsourcing Digitization

Digitization can be done in two ways:

  1. In-house
  2. Outsourcing to a vendor

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Either option works and it really comes down to the preferences of an institution. Important deciding factors will likely include:

  • Cost
  • Staff
  • Equipment (hardware and software)
  • Supplies
  • Space/ facilities
  • Time
In-House Digitization

According the the Northeast Document Conservation Center, these are the advantages and disadvantages of in-house digitization:

Advantages:

  • "Learn by doing"
  • Define requirements incrementally
  • Maintain quality requirements
  • Retain direct control and ensure security and proper handling
  • Ensure the primacy of library, archives, and/or museum requirements

Disadvantages:

  • Larger organizational investment
  • Longer ramp-up time before digitization can begin
  • No set price per digitized item (image, audio, or video file)
  • Comparably limited production capabilities and facilities
  • Wide range of staffing experience
Outsourcing Digitization

According the the Northeast Document Conservation Center, these are the advantages and disadvantages of vendor digitization:

Advantages:

  • Monetary investment and technical infrastructure are responsibilities of the vendor
  • Obsolescence costs are borne by the vendor
  • Organizations can budget and rely on a set cost per digitized item
  • Vendors tend to have lower labor costs
  • The volume and throughput of a specially designed and staffed production facility is far greater than any cultural heritage organization is likely to have
  • Problems related to staff expertise and staff retention are incurred by the vendor

Disadvantages:

  • The organization is one step removed from the digitization process
  • Not all vendors are experienced in working with materials from libraries, archives, and museums
  • Contracts must articulate needs clearly and at the beginning of the process
  • Because most vendor work is performed off-site, organizations must transport potentially fragile materials
  • Vendor staff may not be adequately trained to handle fragile materials with the same care as staff of the owning organization
  • Opting to work with a smaller vendor could make an organization vulnerable to a vendor’s viability

Vendor Resources

Books

Microfilm

Consult the Microfilm page for a list of some vendors and information about microfilm digitization.


Yearbooks

Consult the Yearbooks page for a list of some vendors, as well as information and resources on yearbook digitization, copyright, privacy, and harmful content.