Surprisingly, in the digital age, millions of books, representing a century of knowledge, are still not accessible online to scholars, journalists, students, and people with disabilities. Libraries haven’t been able to transform their books from physical to digital, stymied by digitization costs, legal risks, and missing infrastructure. A look at Internet Archive’s own ebooks and Amazon’s physical holdings reveals a missing century of books between 1923 when public domain is clear-cut, and the digital era (See Charts). This status quo compromises research and learning.
Google Books is the largest program to digitize millions of volumes. But as a for-profit company, Google makes no guarantees about reader privacy, preservation or long-term access.
The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries offers a solution bringing four million books online, guaranteeing to maintain these files for the long-term, ensuring unfettered public access to these collections.
Archivist, Houghton-Mifflin-HarcourtSusan Steinway, archivist at Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, is working with Boston Public Library to digitize and lend its back catalog, stretching back to 1865. Thanks to their cooperation, volumes that have been long out of print are now available to a new generation of online learners. Open Libraries is bringing the work of some of the world’s great thinkers back into circulation. The Boston Public Library/Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt agreement states “accessibility to all published literature is possible while still protecting the rights of authors, illustrators, designers and publishers.””