July 19, 2007
The Open Library Makes Its Online Debut
“Imagine a library that collected all the world’s information about all the world’s books and made it available for everyone to view and update,” write members of the Internet Archive’s Open Content Alliance. “We’re building that library.”
And now the alliance has put a demo version of that library online. The Open Library is meant to serve as a vast digital card catalog, and Web surfers will be able to edit entries, much like in Wikipedia. The repository will also collect books in the public domain, a mission that will bring the library into competition with Google’s much-publicized book-scanning service.
Some critics of the Google project have high hopes for the Open Library, which seems more eager to embrace the ideals of Web 2.0. “If all goes well,” writes Ben Vershbow of if:book, “it’s conceivable that this could become the main destination on the Web for people looking for information in and about books.” That’s still a big if: The library will rely heavily on contributions from unpaid volunteers.
But the Open Library has at least one thing going for it, according to Mr. Vershbow: “On presentation of public-domain texts, they already have Google beat.” The library offers books in a number of different file formats, including a “flip book” tool that attempts to simulate the experience of rifling through a hardbound tome. “This sort of re-enactment of paper functionality is perhaps too literal,” writes Mr. Vershbow, but he admits that it makes for a pretty decent reading experience.
The Open Library plans to unveil a fuller site in October, and project officials will have to do plenty of work to meet that deadline. They plan to create an entry for every book ever published, not just digitized books in the public domain. —Brock Read
Posted on Thursday July 19, 2007 | Permalink |
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