Libraries are catalogs of our greatest and worst achievements, everything we have learned over the centuries, and what passes for entertainment during each decade. Unfortunately they are used less frequently with more student choosing the instead Internet which is full of unreliable sources. Brewster Kahle spoke at the EG Conference way back in 2007 in Los Angeles, CA about his passion for building a free digital library and the challenges that have come with it thus far. You can zoom to the past as I did through his TED Partner Series video.
At the time of the conference it cost about $60,000 to digitally house about 26 million average length books. There are also the book mobile options that averaged about $.01 per page. These were vans, trucks, or small RVs in different cities and countries that had digitized books and printing equipment inside and would allow children to create their own books on demand.
By far the biggest hurdles, of course, are legal and financial. They set up scanning centers to scan books and were averaging 15,000 books a month with a goal of $.10 per page but had not achieved that at the time of his speech. Then of course are the always-troublesome publishing rights and royalties. Every author deserves and needs to be paid of course, or get behind the checkout counter. Where traditional libraries and publishers have found common ground the digital world and intellectual rights are still battling it out.
Money issues aside Brewster has to be admired. His passion for the projection is nothing short of inspiring. I wish everyone cared this much about preserving the written word and free access to information. We may not think about it now but libraries will eventually lose funding as the digital age comes full bloom. Though I see the many benefits of e-readers (students say goodbye to 60lbs backpacks!!) the idea of printed pages and book covers no longer existing is a sad one. This will only further separate the classes and nations. Those who can afford to send their children off to school will fully loaded tablets and e-readers and those who cannot. At least with his efforts, one day, the book portion of the scenario may be free.