Of open libraries and internet bookmobiles

Thanks to Sean (and yes, I did read what he said via Facebook. Of course.) I was made aware of The Open Library. There’s a lot I like about their vision:

The “Collections” approach to book selection is appealing, so much so that I can foresee a time when I try and provide a collection myself, something I had not considered before. The opportunity to non-rivalrous shareable goods and abundance out of a physical, proprietary and scarce collection is in itself something tremendous.

The quality of the archival systems in use makes the books “searchable, retrievable, downloadable and printable”. If I’ve interpreted it correctly, the costs of setting up a decent archival station are currently around $10k and dropping. The Collections approach, when combined with democratised archival processes, should yield significant benefits. In this context, it’s instructive to note that archivist recruitment is being carried out via Craigslist.

There is a clear focus on the use of public domain materials, of open source scanning software,  of Creative Commons licensing processes, and a reliance on open and standardised metadata. All this bodes well.

In addition, the provision of support for people who are normally disenfranchised is heartening. Images can be magnified. Text can be listened to. Books are available free online.

I am particularly intrigued by the possibility that this particular initiative will itself become an open multisided platform. There are already people offering different components and services for scanning, cataloguing and even reading. The Internet Bookmobile seems a fabulous idea.

All in all, I’m delighted to see what Brewster Kahle et al have achieved, and will do what I can to support what is happening here. More later.

2 thoughts on “Of open libraries and internet bookmobiles”

  1. This is an issue I addressed back on my Yahoo! 360! blog:


    I still believe, as I did when I wrote this, that it is important not to confuse books and reading. (However, much I may disagree with some of the books JP chooses, I value that fact that he writes about what he gets from READING them!) The locality of a brick-and-mortar library often had a lot to do with the emergence of “communities of readers” around the books it housed. In light of my most recent comment about Facebook, I am skeptical about the emergence of such communities in the virtual world:


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