Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two Developments Yesterday Related to Digitization of Books

Yesterday, we received notice that the founder of Project Gutenberg passed away at the age of 64.  A true visionary, Michael Hart started the movement to digitize books.  You can read more in the Chronicle article posted yesterday.   Project Gutenberg began in 1971 and now has more than 36,000 books available for free and accessible for anyone with a laptop, Kindle, or portable device. 

Also released yesterday was a notice of a lawsuit being brought against the five major universities  involved in the Haiti Trust, the cooperative project to preserve the digital assets of more than 7 million titles that have been scanned by Google.  The Author's Guild, in cooperation with counterparts in Australia, Canada, and Britain has started a lawsuit.  CNN released a report yesterday that summarizes the suit, and you can read the press release from the Author's Guild on their website.  This comes just one day after Duke announced that it was joining the digitization project.  Their student paper had a good article that talks about the benefits of this project.

At issue are "orphan works."  These are books for which we cannot locate a copyright owner.  Once again, Duke Scholarly Communication Officer, Kevin Smith, has outlined what is at stake on his blog.

While the Google Book Settlement is still unsettled, there are numerous projects underway to digitize books and make them accessible electronically.  The Internet Archive is working to make digital copies of books available for interlibrary lending.  Harvard is currently involved in the development of  a Digital Public Library of America.  And, of course, we're still waiting to hear the results of the Georgia copyright case

A lot is at stake in terms of access to information for scholars.  While we try to follow these developments and keep abreast of what's happening, I'm wondering how many scholars are closely following these developments and having discussions in their professional societies? 

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