Preservation should be distinguished from conservation-restoration of cultural heritage, which refers to the treatment and repair of individual items to slow decay or restore them to a usable state. Conservation is occasionally used interchangeably with preservation, particularly outside the professional literature.
A relatively new concept, digitization, has been hailed as a way to preserve historical items for future use. "Digitizing refers to the process of converting analog materials into digital form."
For manuscripts, digitization is achieved through scanning an item and saving it to a digital format. For example, the Google Book Search program has partnered with over forty libraries around the world to digitize books. The goal of this library partnership project is to "make it easier for people to find relevant books – specifically, books they wouldn't find any other way such as those that are out of print – while carefully respecting authors' and publishers' copyrights."
Although digitization seems to be a promising area for future preservation, there are also problems. The main problems are that digital space costs money, formats change, and backwards compatibility is not guaranteed. Higher-quality images take a longer time to scan, but are often more valuable for future use. Fragile items are often more difficult or more expensive to scan, which creates a selection problem for preservationists. Other problems include scan quality, redundancy of digitized books among different libraries, and copyright law.
However, many of these problems are being solved through educational initiatives. Educational programs are tailoring themselves to fit preservation needs and help new students understand preservation practices. Programs teaching graduate students about digital librarianship are especially important.