librivox serendipity

A few people had sent me a link to LibriVox before I left on the trip and it was in the queue to look at when I got back. I ran into Hugh McGuire at the Open Content Alliance Open Library Launch (his blog notes) and was happy to be able to say “Hey your link is in my inbox” and then get to talk to the man himself about the work that he does with group of dedicated volunteers. With a tagline like “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain” you’ve got to believe they have big plans. The specific project involves volunteers recording chapters of books and making the audio files available. The broader vision is to have “all books in the public domain to be available, for free, in audio format, on the internet.” You can have a copy of Call of the Wild to use however you want and whenever you want, thanks to LibriVox and the four volunteers who read and recorded the chapters. What are you waiting for, go volunteer to read something! Hugh is also on the board of Canda’s oldest lending library in case you were skeptical about his librarian cred.

Open Library/Open Content Alliance announcement from

Hi. This is the presentation that Andrea and I are watching right now in San Francisco. The Open Library. Brewster Kahle is talking now and doing a book scanning demonstration. I like how he says “librarians” a lot.

Vision of an Open Library

The Web is So post-1996, what about older content?

Everyone is part of it: Amazon helps “expand the bookstore” but we’re looking for inclusivity.

“A great library for the published works of humankind, accessible to all… everybody involved… libraries LIVE based on the publishing system, they will be involved.”

3 to 4 billion of the 12 billion libraries spend every year goes to publishing. Let’s have more of that go to fairly compensating everyone.

“For the near term, we’re making books from books.” It’s hard to digitze a book that looks like the original, this is the proof that can work.

1. Selection. librarians choose books. Start with out of copyright materials, work towards in print, orphans next. “we’re not going to run out”
2. Scanning. 500 dpi “scribe system” 30-60 min per book. “we can read a 2 pt typeface, straight on” metadata, saved to archive
3. Cataloging. Use library data and coordinate between scanning centers using MetaFetch. Groups like RLG are coordinating.
4. Copyright. Copyright law is “a little confusing” Evidence based interface allows a Q&A “is this book under copyright” interrogation. Many books not re-registered copyright-wise. Already scanned copyright renewal records into a searchable database. Larry Lessig is bringing a suit re: orphan works and whether they can be in the virtual library. Other for-profits are working back the other way. It’s “tricky but doable”
5. Storage. 6 GB per book, hard to scale. Built a petabyte-scale machine “petabox” [I saw it] low power, runs cool, “set top boxes” not full computers with OSes etc. Object is not to have one box in an earthquake zone, but distributed system in flood zones & elsewhere.
6. Readers. Software. Check it out at UC librarians chose early set of books already scanned. Also looking into PDFs for printing. Also working with for print on demand. Also, you can listen to these books.

Other mentioned projects: ICDL, Internet Archive Bookmobile [buck a book!]. BookShare will use this content for access for the blind. $100 laptop will be integrating books from this project onto their laptops [big news!]. Open Content Alliance to create protocols and formats.

Brewster Kahle: “I don’t know what it will be like to have books from our libraries injected into our culture again, but I’d like to see it”

“Knowledge for the World” is the mantra that all the funders [on and off the podium, 30 seconds each: Smithsonian (museums/content), Yahoo, Sloan Foundation (funding), Johns Hopkins (content/tech), RLG (cataloging), Adobe (display/doc formatting), HP (scan), LizardTech (data compression), (printing), MSN Search (search/funding) etc]

Guy from Yahoo “Finally a library I won’t get thrown out of” and “Find, use, share, and expand all human knowledge”

Andrea has more, including some links that I missed.