Jim Draper

About Author: 

Jim Draper is executive vice president at Readex, where he manages the Readex publishing program. Previously he was general manager at Gale, where he developed a number of major product lines. Jim has been in the publishing business for over 30 years and has also managed leading reference and journal programs.

Posts by this Author

What makes a primary source interface a GREAT interface?

When Readex recently posed this question to a wide range of researchers, we heard four crucial things:

  • Modern styling—researchers want primary source databases that are visually engaging and feel “right”
  • Ease of use—both experts and novices want their path to primary sources to be simple and intuitive
  • Speed!—software must search quickly, deliver relevant results in a blink, and rapidly display large images
  • Flexible tools that optimize content use and which map to common user needs and workflows.

With this feedback front and center, Readex has been busy making fresh improvements to its interfaces.

Two months ago I had the pleasure of announcing a major overhaul of the America’s Historical Newspapers and World Newspaper Archive platform. User reaction has been extremely positive, and it’s gratifying to see more usage and better research outcomes.


We’ve already saved many users a substantial amount of time, too, by introducing a number of efficiencies to the interface.

Of course the work is never done, nor should it be. It’s important to stay abreast of needs and to make continuous improvements to our interfaces and services.

During the past several months we’ve been focusing on the fourth bullet above—“flexible tools that optimize content use.” Much of our effort has focused on enhancing the “document view” experience (sometimes called the “image viewer”) in our products. This is where users encounter the actual primary source in image form.

Throughout 2018, we met with users and asked them about the image viewer. Here’s what they said:

What makes a primary source interface a GREAT interface?

Extra! Extra! New Era Begins for America’s Historical Newspapers!



What a story!

Way back in the early 1940s, book publisher Albert Boni, co-founder of the Modern Library publishing company, established the Readex Microprint Corporation in New York City and Chester, Vermont.

Boni’s purpose: Create surrogates of American historical documents, first to ensure their preservation, and second to enable wide access to the raw materials that document the American journey.

A decade later, in 1955, the American Antiquarian Society invited Readex to publish in microprint form Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800. Suddenly the near-entire corpus of the earliest American books could be accessed in libraries across the United States and the world.

Over the years more books would be discovered and added to the “Evans” collection—a quest that continues even today.



The success of this partnership led to the microform publication of Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819, and Early American Newspapers , Series 1, 1690-1876.

Extra! Extra! New Era Begins for America’s Historical Newspapers!

The Power of Metadata: Readex and the Territorial Papers of the United States

Earlier this year Readex published the Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953, the most important early American content not yet digitized—until now.

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More than half of America’s states began as territories. From the 1760s to the 1950s the United States of America expanded southward and westward, acquiring territories that spanned from Florida to California to Alaska. Before they evolved into twenty-seven American states, these territories were managed by the U.S. State and Interior departments. The official history of their formative territorial years is recorded in Territorial Papers of the United States—a collection of Native American negotiations and treaties, official correspondence with the federal government, military records, judicial proceedings, population data, financial statistics, land records, and more.

About two thirds of these documents are in manuscript form. This means they cannot be made full-text searchable through the application of Optical Character Recognition (“OCR”) technologies. Yes, there are technologies today that can do a fairly decent job applying OCR to certain types of manuscripts, but the handwriting needs to be very clear, and extremely uniform, for the technology to work at all, and even then the results don’t match the quality that can be achieved from printed (as opposed to manuscript) documents.

The documents in Territorial Papers of the United States are from many time periods and in many handwritings, making them poor candidates for OCR application.

The Power of Metadata: Readex and the Territorial Papers of the United States

A Video Preview of the Digital Edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States

Since the early 1940s, Readex has been the leading innovator in the publication of historical American resources. We started our work with massive projects, including Early American Imprints, based on the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker bibliographies, and Early American Newspapers.

Back then, the medium was microprint and then microform, and it often took ten…or twenty…or thirty years to complete a single product. Many source institutions had to be visited; many documents had to be filmed; and many license agreements had to be drawn up. New technologies had to be developed, too, to ensure that the original images were captured as effectively as possible. These early major collections later became online digital offerings, of course. The ones mentioned above proved to be absolutely foundational back in the early days of digitization.

Today, Readex is extremely proud to be the developer of one more foundational product: Territorial Papers of the United States. This new collection—which we are releasing in four series beginning in June 2018—captures the essential history of more than half of the states of the United States when they were still territories. From Florida to California to Alaska and just about everywhere else in between, Territorial Papers is the crucial—and until now, undigitized—record of a growing, expanding America.

A Video Preview of the Digital Edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States

Better Learning, Better Classrooms: Why Newspapers Matter

rapt.jpgAlmost every week I’m asked, “How can we use historical newspapers to teach undergraduates?”

Great question!

Mostly it’s faculty who come to me asking for this advice, but librarians wonder about this, too.

Faculty (mostly professors of history, politics, government, and cultural studies) want to be sure their students have an experience in which they truly “touch history.” There’s also a strong desire to have students work directly with primary sources and draw their own conclusions from the materials they encounter. The objective is to instill knowledge, understanding, and critical-thinking skills. That’s a formula, they all agree, for student success.

Historical newspapers, including Readex’s own America's Historical Newspapers, hit the target in every respect. Here are just a few of the ways:

► Students cannot truly understand an event in America’s past without seeing firsthand and in real-time what people said about it. Newspapers are the only certain vehicle for this.

►Newspapers capture “the voice of the moment,” unprocessed, unfiltered, direct, and raw. Students instantly grasp this fact, which drives interest and excitement. Sometimes it even leads to great student papers and presentations!

►Newspapers offer multiple points of view, often across a time span of many days or months or years. They fit perfectly with assignments that require pro-and-con analysis. They also fit perfectly with assignments that ask students to synthesize multiple arguments across time. Newspapers provide most—and sometimes all—of the material a student needs.

Better Learning, Better Classrooms: Why Newspapers Matter

Announcing “Suggested Searches”: A New Feature in Twentieth-Century Global Perspectives

Cold War for Suggested Searches.JPGEarlier this year Readex launched a new suite of online resources on the crucial issues that shaped the post-World War II world. The suite is titled Twentieth-Century Global Perspectives and includes collections covering apartheid, the Cold War, migrations and refugees, race relations in the United States, and more. The content—from the archives of the C.I.A. and available nowhere else in fully searchable form—includes translated radio broadcasts, foreign-government reports, journal articles, television transcripts, and news items of various kinds.

Each of these primary source collections provides students and scholars with perspectives from outside of the United States. Such views are crucial to the proper understanding of world issues and shed enormous light on how nations across the globe responded to emerging matters of geo-political importance.

Over the past six months Readex has received requests from users to provide “pathways” into the content that enable deep research on key themes and topics.

Announcing “Suggested Searches”: A New Feature in Twentieth-Century Global Perspectives

New collection covers Irish historical newspapers across three centuries

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Readex is delighted to announce a partnership with Irish Newspaper Archives Ltd., of Dublin, to be the exclusive seller in North America of a new product titled Irish Historical Newspapers.

Irish Historical Newspapers contains 15 essential papers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland spanning more than 250 years—from 1738 to 2004. Most of the papers are extremely long runs—for example, the Freeman’s Journal (a major national daily) runs from 1763 to 1924, and The Belfast Newsletter (another major national daily) covers the years 1738 to 1890.

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Also included are The Nation (1842-1897), which offers detailed coverage of the Great Irish Famine, and the Skiberreen Eagle (1882-1922), which features first-hand reporting on the 1916 Rising, and nearly a dozen other invaluable titles.


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New collection covers Irish historical newspapers across three centuries

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