I kind of like this idea. For those of you who don’t know what the Internet Archive does, they’re stated mission is to offer access to a “non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies & music, as well as 150 billion archived web pages.” An ambitious goal, no doubt.
As part of this mission, they have been scanning as many books as they can get their hands on. They state that:
The goal is to preserve one copy of every published work. The universe of unique titles has been estimated at close to one hundred million items. Many of these are rare or unique, so we do not expect most of these to come to the Internet Archive; they will instead remain in their current libraries. But the opportunity to preserve over ten million items is possible, so we have designed a system that will expand to this level. Ten million books is approximately the size of a world-class university library or public library, so we see this as a worthwhile goal. If we are successful, then this set of cultural materials will last for centuries and could be beneficial in ways that we cannot predict.
Thus, as they scan these books, they also want to archive a hardcopy of the same volume for the future. In an age where traditional publishers are hurting, and ebook sales are starting to surpass traditional book sales, I think this is a noble goal. I love the tactile feeling of a physical book, even though I tend to favour my ebook reader these days.
The system, as described by the Internet Archive, is as follows:
In January of 2009, we started developing the physical preservation systems. Fortunately there is a wealth of literature on book preservation documenting studies on the fibers of paper as well as results from multi-year storage experiments. Based on this technical literature and specifications from depositories around the world, Tom McCarty, the engineer who designed the Internet Archive’s Scribe book-scanning system, began to design, build, and test a modular storage system in Oakland California. This system uses the infrastructure developed around the most used storage design of the 20th century, the shipping container. Rows of stacked shipping containers are used like 40′ deep shelving units. In this configuration, a single shipping container can hold around 40,000 books, about the same as a standard branch library, and a small building can hold millions of books.