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.