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The Internet's Librarian

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Brewster Kahle

Extreme Computing 2002

Technologist and entrepreneur Brewster Kahle (pictured) wants to produce a free, online corpus of human knowledge called the Internet Archive that is bigger than any other digital library.

The archive's most famous component is the Wayback Machine, a repository of digital copies of Internet sites that "gives us access to what people were producing at different points in time," says Paul Courant, the dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.

The Internet Archive also includes an audio library with more than 300,000 MP3 files, a live-music archive with recordings of more than 60,000 concerts, and a moving-images archive with 150,000-plus films and videos — all freely available to anyone with Internet access. Kahle has enlisted 135 libraries in, whose goal is to produce a catalog of all published books that includes links to each book's full text where available. The archive digitizes more than 1,000 books daily, and the fees libraries pay for this service partly funds the archive.

Kahle is a strong advocate of openness, going so far as to assert that the archive's Scribe scanning machine and its PetaBox machine must be open source.

The Internet Archive's book-scanning activities are limited to works in the public domain, whereas most of the books digitized by Google's BookSearch project are still protected by copyright, which means that users can only view small excerpts of the text. The nonprofit Internet Archive and the for-profit Google BookSearch may ultimately complement each other.

From Economist Technology Quarterly
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