Transformation Into Data
As the Center began work on its second major project, The Correspondence of John Dewey, questions arose concerning the format that would be used in publishing the work. The previous project, The Collected Works of John Dewey, had been published in print format over the course of thirty years. With the new project, however, the Center decided to publish electronically for two main reasons: cost and accessibility.
Although the Dewey Center, with the support of the Southern Illinois University Press, had published the thirty-seven volumes ofThe Collected Works of John Dewey in print form, the cost had been daunting. Seventeen years into the correspondence project, the Dewey Center has accumulated over 22,000 letters pertaining to Dewey’s life, and we have estimated that the publication of all of those would take up more space than the Collected Works themselves. By publishing in electronic format, the Center did not have to be selective in what it published, could include all of the materials available, and can insert new materials into the chronological order as they are discovered.
Also prompting the decision to shift to electronic publication was accessibility. By publishing a searchable database, theCorrespondence and the electronic edition of The Collected Works of John Dewey became much easier to access. Researchers could now search the databases topically, with key words and phrases. This allows researchers the opportunity to find the materials that pertain to their own research topics quickly, without having to read through the diverse subject areas covered in the breadth of Dewey’s writings and letters.