2024-05-24 08:14:26
Kevin Kelly on universal library books

Kevin Kelly has a piece called Scan This Book, in which he envisions an electronic library which has all the books ever printed, scanned, digitized, cross referenced: “So what happens when all the books in the world become a single liquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas? Four things: First, works on the margins of popularity will find a small audience larger than the near-zero audience they usually have now. Far out in the “long tail” of the distribution curve — that extended place of low-to-no sales where most of the books in the world live — digital interlinking will lift the readership of almost any title, no matter how esoteric. Second, the universal library will deepen our grasp of history, as every original document in the course of civilization is scanned and cross-linked. Third, the universal library of all books will cultivate a new sense of authority. If you can truly incorporate all texts — past and present, multilingual — on a particular subject, then you can have a clearer sense of what we as a civilization, a species, do know and don’t know. The white spaces of our collective ignorance are highlighted, while the golden peaks of our knowledge are drawn with completeness. This degree of authority is only rarely achieved in scholarship today, but it will become routine.”

This vision might be closer than we think even though I have concerns whether this might be turn out just nice like that. One fact in the article has stunned me:

“Corporations and libraries around the world are now scanning about a million books per year. Amazon has digitized several hundred thousand contemporary books.[…] Superstar, an entrepreneurial company based in Beijing, has scanned every book from 900 university libraries in China. It has already digitized 1.3 million unique titles in Chinese, which it estimates is about half of all the books published in the Chinese language since 1949. It costs $30 to scan a book at Stanford but only $10 in China.”

Just to put that in perspective. The state funded Hungarian book-scanning project scanned 700 hundred book in 7 years. yes that is one book in three days, for around a hunder dollars each. can we call that a digital divide?

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