Monday, May 15, 2006

Scan This Book! by Kevin Kelly

The New York Times Magazine cover story was all about the digitalization of books and the benefits of a universal library.

There was one element of the article that really excited me. I do a lot of research online and have greatly benefited from Google Scholar, Google Print, and Amazon Inside the Book. I have typed in various keywords into those search engines and have been continually delighted when they show me books and article that I had never heard about.

The Times piece says that the universal digital library will take this one step further. A person could read a book online and then go to the footnotes, click on a hyperlink, and be taken to the original source material.

This would revolutionize research, making it much, much easier to consult with a wide array of sources. Right now, when I read a book and decide I want to look at the original source material, I have to traipse over to the library to try and find the book. I am lucky to live near the Bancroft Library and the libraries at UC Berkeley, so I usually can find what I need. But if I lived in the middle of nowhere, I would have to plan a special trip to Berkeley to refer to those sources. And as soon as I got home again, I would discover there were books I had neglected to ask for.

The universal library will erase these physical boundaries -- which may improve scholarship and journalism.

Read Scott Esposito’s take on the matter. (He thinks it sounds too utopian, particularly the part where people can “create” their own books by cutting and pasting from existing books)

Here is what Ann Althouse said.

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