Brewster Kahle

Internet Archive

A Future for Books: BookServer
19 minutes, 9.1mb, recorded 2010-02-23
Brewster Kahle

Brewster Kahle offers a tour of the present and proposed uses for the open architecture BookServer ecosystem. This project is part of Kahle's quest to provide universal access to all knowledge. Kahle describes locating, borrowing and purchasing books in a dizzying series of device examples. He covers open protocols in use on a Kindle, an IPhone, the O'Reilly e-book store, an archive of 6000 musical bands, free books for the one-laptop-per-child program, and Daisy devices for the reading disabled.

Kahle suggests that publications in any format can be posted for indexing using BookServer protocols. Publications can be offered for free, for borrowing or for purchasing. By serving many players in an open distributed community, Kahle says BookServer helps to bring the concept of the great library to the digital age. 

In the audio version the myriad examples may seem disjointed at times. To put all this in perspective as Kahle gives his live talk, he repeatedly refers to this image of the BookServer ecosystem (below) to show how the disparate systems can be connected. A quick glance should help audio listeners picture Kahle's ecosystem of publishing.


Kahle explains that today's big name search engines use a centralized catalog format for books. Sites like Google and Bing collect book information and each builds a proprietary catalog. The search engine controls any links to book vendors and often generates income on sales. Kahle contrasts that proprietary system with BookServer, an open architecture system that allows any search engine to find book information on the web. BookServer is a distributed system (an open protocol) for lending and vending books on the internet.  Kahle sees content providers of all sizes making money and librarians being able to lend any book they own on paper to their readers in a paper or digital format.

Kahle discusses his concern for orphaned books, out-of-print books that are still in copyright. Distribution of orphaned books is a major obstacle in achieving universal human access to all knowledge, a long-held ambition of Kahle. BookServer is one tool that Kahle hopes will help make the great library available to every person on earth.

Brewster Kahle, a successful internet entrepreneur, is a digital librarian and co-founder of the Internet Archive. BookServer is a part of his acclaimed quest to provide universal access to all knowledge.

A 1982 MIT graduate, Kahle's been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was named one of 50 Visionaries Changing Your World by Utne Reader in 2009. Kahle is on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Forbes has called Kahle a thorn in Google's side. Kahle works for vibrant publishing environments because he sees them as essential to a rich and democratic digital future.


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Photo: Public Domain