Saturday, December 08, 2007
An article from The Weekly Standard announces Google's plan to digitize 32 million books. This is one of a growing number of developments that are taking the printed word increasingly to the computer screen. Amazon.com has recently announced Kindle, a compact handheld computerized reading device with a large storage capacity (over 200 books, newspapers, or blogs). The screen mimics black ink on paper, easy on the eyes. There are currently over 80,000 books available to buy, most of them 9.99. You can also subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and blogs. The cost for Kindle: $399. Another online reading service is WorldCat, short for "World Catalog," which allows you to search thousands of libraries for books, beginning with libraries closest to you. Some books are available digitally. One response to Google's ambitious online text scheme is the Open Content Alliance, a group of libraries that resist having commercial interests take over the online publication of books. The Universal Digital Library at Carnegie Mellon University is up and running with a number of books currently available. When I tried accessing it, I was denied access because of heavy traffic, but interestingly, I was given the option of trying one of 3 sites in India or sites in China or Egypt. I chose one in India and was able to get to Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. For a while, I've been aware of Bartleby.com, which makes available a list of free online books. The basic issue faced by Google, as well as its competitors is the obvious one of copyright violation for books still falling within the 28-year limit (extendable by 60 or so additional years). Apparently, they're seeking permission to digitize books where the copyright is still in effect. Interestingly, book publishers are beginning to face some of the same proprietary issues that have stirred up the music industry in recent years.