Sunday, October 24, 2004

Put the Library of Congress on the Web already!

This is old news (which means over a few days old for the blogosphere) but the idea is so cool that I have to post it.

The idea of access for all was put forward by visionary Brewster Kahle, who suggested starting by digitally scanning all 26 million books in the US Library of Congress.

His idea was just one of many presented at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco that aims to give a glimpse of what the net will become.
Brewster Kahle's idea is to scan as many books as possible and put them online so everyone has access to that huge amount of knowledge. In his speech, Mr Kahle pointed out that most books are out of print most of the time and only a tiny proportion are available on bookshop shelves. Using a robotic scanner, Mr Kahle said the job of scanning the 26 million volumes in the US Library of Congress, the world's biggest library, would cost only $260m (£146m). He estimated that the scanned images would take up about a terabyte of space and cost about $60,000 (£33,000) to store. Instead of needing a huge building to hold them, the entire library could fit on a single shelf. The Web 2.0 conference was held in San Francisco from 5-7 October.

BBC NEWS Technology Visionaries outline web's future

Even if it cost four times as much as Kahle thinks it would still be worthwhile to scan the entire Library of Congress and make it available to all. This could be an incredible asset to researchers and regular people all over the globe. All government documents, both Federal and State should be scanned and posted as well in my opinion. Freedom of information is what makes a democracy work after all. There's no reason why the citizens of the US and the world should not have instant access to any information in the public domain. The only difficulty is paying for it. I'm sure that there are people out there that could somehow turn such a database into a business model though. Not only that, but such a database would increase the already dominant US/English language presence on the Web, which may be politically advantageous. I hope someone is Washington heard Kahle and is thinking about this project more closely.


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