More on Digitization of Libraries

Further to Neil Campbell’s post of last week about the Open Content Alliance project to digitize libraries…

Brewster Kahle has produced an e-book called The Open Library to describe the Alliance’s process and to hash over some of the problems about copyright and reading on line. Kahle, through his foundation, is a main benefactor of the Internet Archive, and has long championed making out-of-copyright works available to everyone (especially poor children) through digitization and print-on-demand.

Now that the main Canadian universities are part of the Open Content Alliance, it’ll be interesting to see whether any of our law libraries participate, either by getting permission of authors and publishers or by having out-of-copyright works digitized. I know (and was reminded strongly at a recent meeting of research lawyers) that the legal profession is still firmly “print bound,” but the surge of digitization will almost certainly wash over law, bringing texts and other monographs on line, the way that cases and statutes have been “virtualized” — unless, of course, the publishers reckon that offering only hard copy is the best way to ensure their markets.

What seems to me to be missing is an intermediate stage, where more material about law books is available on line — tables of contents, for example. Publishers’ web sites, the Canadian ones at least, are really remiss in this respect.


  1. The San Francisco papers have a very interesting article on the Open Content Alliance and its visionary leader Brewster Kahle.
    In an interesting contrast to Google’s initiative comes a collaborative open source project whose aim is not to create a catalogue but an actual library.

    The venture focuses on public domain books where copyright has lapsed. The Open Content Alliance has an impressive list of backers and partners: an blue chip group of libraries and publishers had promised to participate, including the Smithsonian, Johns Hopkins University, our own University of Toronto, British National Archives, European Archives, O’Reilly Media and Prelinger Archives plus multimedia companies LibriVox, Octavo and others.

    The University of California already has started its contribution: a collection of 18,000 works of American fiction, which librarians are selecting from the 10-library statewide system. Microsoft’s MSN Search has promised $5 million toward the scanning of 150,000 books, and both Adobe and Hewlett-Packard will contribute advanced digital imaging.

    Bu a huge irony the Library of Congress announced its initiative on Friday 25 November: see