July 23, 2007

Open Library

The Internet Archive and the Open Content Alliance, in cooperation with several coporate partners, has opened The Open Library for use. It's not complete yet, with some features still on hold until the official launch later this year, but it's complete enough that you can get a feel for what it might be like. It's not perfect, looking at first glance more like a pile of books on a table than an organized library, but the potential is there. Plus, I *love* the concept of the public domain and hate how hard people fight against it these days.

Also, this feeds into one of my grand theories; that in my lifetime digital text will eclipse print in usage. When people sit down to read a novel they will do so at a compter or, more likely, on some kind of wireless pad. Print will exist, but more as a novelty than as a legitimate form of media. Right now the technology is a bit raw and getting things digital means lots of tedious scanning, but eventually the scanning process will be largely completed and new works will be prepared digitally before they reach print, if they ever do. Hooray!

It's also worth pointing out that this isn't the first attempt at an online source of print. Google Book Search also lets you search the text of books and indeed includes non-public domain works that The Open Library doesn't. The difference seems to be a potential for differing goals. Google, though not by any accounts I've heard an evil scary corporation, is certainly a company interested in creating revenue streams. The Open Library is designed right from the start to be much more like a traditional library. The issue of copyrighted works aside, I think thinking of itself as a public resource rather than a business might result in a very different sort of site. Either way, there are indeed two online sources of books and hopefully the competition will make them better.


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