Friday 11 November 2011

British Newspaper Archive beta - initial thoughts

The British Newspaper Archive has now launched a beta version of its website at which will be available until Monday, November 14th. Despite it being a beta, the site is charging those who have previously registered with it a sum of £6.95 for 1000 credits - to view a page costs 10 credits, about 7p, which seems a fair price for a page, as that's about 100 pages worth, not bad. The beta intro page asks that none of the material is copied as yet, including use of screengrabs, so this is a non-illustrated preliminary assessment based on what I have seen so far.

The project is a partnership between the British Library and Brightsolid, the company behind A rough tally suggests there are 157 separate titles available, though the range of what is available varies - there is a title for Ayr, for example, with only one edition online! When originally previewed the site seemed to imply that only English titles would be made available in the first batch, and I'm happy to say that this is not the case - though this really should be qualified. For Ireland, for example, I can see three titles available for Belfast, Dublin and Cork. That's the good news - the slightly weirder news is that the titles for Belfast and Dublin are already freely available via library based subscriptions to the British Library 19th Century Newspaper Collection. For Scotland, the situation is better - there are new titles for Stirling, Dundee, Elgin, Falkirk, Motherwell, Dumfries and Dunfermline - but equally, the titles for Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and one for Dundee, are also freely available in the 19th Century collection, if you have access. I have not checked how much duplication there might be with English or Welsh material, though I see the Illustrated Police News there, which is on the 19th C collection. So it is worth checking against the 19th C collection via local library access before purchasing something that you might actually be able to get for free elsewhere.

The site itself is quite friendly on the eye, and seems to work fine. One thing that might irritate a few people is the fact that with the lists of titles presented, there is no date range given - I can't imagine that that would be a big deal to implement, but when addressed on the sites FAQs it suggests that it is because they will be adding more material. That's fair enough, but can't they just amend the date range when they do?!

This site is going to be GREAT, but I'm just surprised to see as much repetition as there is from the other British Library newspaper project. I had been given the nod a few weeks back that there would not be much by way of Irish material, and that is certainly the case, but I am really pleased to see such a wide range from Scotland, probably more than I was expecting. A point to note is that the earlier 19th C newspaper project is going to stand still, but this new site will continue to expand over the next 10 years - so a site to keep returning to for a while me thinks!

A major new resource, but please - add year ranges!

Now off to have a really good play...! :)



  1. Decided it wasn't worth paying to test the beta as there are no new Bradford newspapers. Maybe the search facility will be better than the 19 century one which doesn't seem to restrict the results by date very well. Hopefully over time they will release new papers it would be nice to know in advance which papers they are working on so that we know whether to invest in credits which I assume will last 6 months or a year?

  2. As an overseas researcher I have been anxiously awaiting this site. Sadly, the beta version came on a weekend when I had not a moment to spare so I had to pass up trying it out. I did have a quick look, though. It looks much easier to use than the Gale 18th and 19th Century Newspaper Database.

    There are two things that I am concerned about:
    1. Pricing. The beta price seems quite fair. Will it be the same after the public launch? Will there be reasonably priced annual subscription packages instead of credits?

    2. Coverage. Will I still have to augment my research by using the Gale Databases at my local University if I want to do a thorough search? Or will both databases cover the same papers?

    Thanks for a great blog.

  3. I can't answer the questions until the full thing is launched, though there is some repetition in titles carried on both sites.

    Thanks for comment on the blog!