... It’s interesting, isn’t it, how appealing “free” is? Start any discussion
with “XYZ should be free” and everyone has to agree: “Food should be free.”
“Hear, hear!” But then the niggling doubts creep in, such as how will farmers be
And that’s the status of the Open Library. Its dream is to make information
on books available to all and sundry. It’s even putting full texts online when
it can. It’s close to defining APIs (application programming interfaces) so that
developers can grab information from the database.
The model is similar to Wikipedia with a page per book, but the Open Library
wiki will allow for structured entries. The world at large will provide
information to the database, the development of which is funded through
donations and grants.
Once the system goes live, it should not be expensive to run, and can be
financed through a combination of donations and commercial activities, such as
printing on demand and commissions from Amazon referrals.
The servers are being run by the Internet Archive, the people who came up
with the Open Library idea in the first place. You may already have encountered
them as the Wayback Machine, which is a great way to check on earlier versions
of websites. It also has a book scanning project which has been scooping up
out-of-copyright books to make them available to the project.
Records can be gleaned from anywhere: the Library of Congress Catalogue,
people’s own notes, library systems generally, Amazon, anywhere in fact where
book information lives. And that’s going to create tensions, not to put too fine
a point on things.
The end-result should become a widely referenced and accessed hub for book
communities, both professionals and the general public.
With so much data available free of charge, some organisations are bound to
be concerned about the threat to their own business models. No doubt we’re going
to see a rerun of the Encyclopedia Britannica versus Wikipedia shenanigans. ...
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.