Achievements for Humanity
The Open Content Alliance includes hundreds of member libraries who are stretching their limited resources in order to digitize their public domain holdings and to make them available with no restrictions whatsoever.
So it was surprising to read recently in a New York Times article that Google’s leadership thinks that they have been alone in the ambitious scanning of books. The article quotes Sergey Brin as saying:
“I didn’t see anyone lining up to scan books when we did it, or even now …. Some of them are motivated by near-term business disputes, and they don’t see this as an achievement for humanity.”
Well, true, the Internet Archive wasn’t exactly lining up to scan books when Google did: we were scanning books long before. We started with our sourcing technology and a donation of 100,000 books to the Million Books Project in 2002. This involvement led to the development of our University of Toronto scanning center in 2004, months before Google publicly launched its Library Project. We now have 19 scanning centers in 5 countries scanning 1,000 public domain books a day–without restriction. And even before our efforts began, Project Gutenberg and others were scanning and posting freely.
Like Brin, we see the marvelous work done by the University of Toronto and other partner institutions as an “achievement for humanity.” And, further, we believe that the principles of the OCA — truly open content and truly broad access — present an important alternative to the impressive but closed, proprietary, and now monopolistic model advanced by Google.