Cooperation project of digitizing Estonian high literature digitization

Marin Laak, Marju Mikkel
Estonian Cultural History Archives, Estonian Literary Museum

Far-reaching and large-scale measures are being introduced to make cultural heritage available in Estonia within a longer temporal perspective. Ministries aim to mass digitize books, archival documents, photographs and films and present the material as open data in cloud. This may happen in the nearest or more distant future, but in any case it will take the digitization capacity of Estonian memory institutions to a new level. In the context of this medium-length perspective, the conceptual choices and content environments of the smaller projects, which have been implemented so far, may be viewed as tiny survey patches in a larger field.

In 2012, the Ministry of Culture launched a call for applications to digitize Estonian works of high literature, with an aim of making them freely available online. The programme resulted in converting the first Estonian classical novels into EPUB format in 2013 by Digira OÜ. In 2014, a continuation project was launched with Estonian National Library, Estonian Literary Museum and Digira OÜ as cooperation partners. As a result of the project, 87 high literature books, constituting a total of 13,000 original book pages, have been made available in EPUB format. The choice of the books was influenced by literature recommended in school curricula. When speaking of Estonian high literature, the authors mostly mean works not subject to copyright laws. By the second phase of the project, these resources had been exhausted and the term ‘high literature’ was given a broader meaning. In addition to works not subject to copyright laws, an initial selection of some authors’ works which are protected with copyright (those by Tuglas, Alver, Ristikivi, Under and Adson) have also been made freely available online.

How does the process of converting Estonian high literature into e-books/EPUB format work and which stages does it entail? Preparing book files for conversion into EPUB files was highly laborious, including the choice of a book’s copy, digitization and text processing. The latter proved the most time-consuming and problematic stage as the books represent the earliest literature and are written in the still evolving early literary language of the 19th and early 20th century. The digital library available through the portal ‘Kreutzwald’s Century’ offers potential from the viewpoint of digital humanities and added value for readers.

The books are available at,, and The e-books are prepared in the collaboration of Estonian National Library, Estonian Literary Museum and Digira OÜ, and are supported by the programme ‘Estonian Literature’ of the Ministry of Culture.