bad scan = bad information

Erica mentions something that has always sort of bugged me about scanned books, keyword searchable or no: bitonal image scanning. I use Heritage Quest at my library to do genealogical research. They have about 25,000 history and family name books scanned and searchable online. It’s sort of amazing except that the thing I really like to look at old books for — the fancy pictures and odd typography and illustrations — are almost unreadable. At some point, someone made a decision to do this, and I think it was the wrong decision. If we’re saving shelves and shelves of storage space and preservation costs, and I’m not so sure we are, couldn’t we spend a few cents extra to get at least grayscale renditions of the images in these books?