Thursday, April 5, 2012

American digital public library promised for 2013

Two million books will be available in an online digital library to rival Google's collection, according to Professor Robert Darnton.

Darnton, who represents Harvard, said that the idea behind the library is to make America's "cultural heritage accessible, free of charge, to all of our countrymen and women, in fact to everyone in the world".

"It challenges the assumption that the way things are is the way they have to be and that the everyday, workaday world is firmly fixed in what we take to be reality. History shows that things can fall apart, sometimes in a way that releases utopian energy."

The lessons to be learned from Google's "failed … attempt" are that it is possible to build a huge digital library, but that "such a library should be designed and run for the public good", said Darnton.

Darnton finished by calling on his listeners not to let "concern with legal entanglements … blind us to the utopian energy that has driven democratisation from the time of the Founding Fathers".

"Given the opportunity, authors and publishers and readers of all kinds will rally to the cause," he said. "Their commitment can fuel the other force that shaped the Republic from its beginning. I mean the pragmatic, can-do spirit that actually gets things done."

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