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The Digitization of Books: Country by Country

abstract:President Nicolas Sarkozy announced in 2009 a €750 million fund to digitize the French national patrimony. The National Library of the Netherlands plans to digitize every book, newspaper or periodical they've produced in less than a decade going all the way back to 1470. Australia, Norway, Finland and Japan are following suit. What is the status in North America? And what happens when the books are still under copyright and providing someone an income?

Of the 30 million books in the American Library of Congress, 2 million have been digitally scanned by Google. It is estimated that it costs about 10 cents a page depending upon the quality required. Some people are proposing the creation of a Digital Public Library of American (DPLA)—a digital library composed of virtually all the books in our greatest research libraries available free of charge to the entire citizenry, in fact, to everyone in the world.

Robert Darnton of The New York Review of Books writes: "To dismiss this goal as naive or utopian would be to ignore digital projects that have proven their worth and feasibility throughout the last twenty years. All major research libraries have digitized parts of their collections. Since 1995 the Digital Library Federation has worked to combine their catalogues or “metadata” into a general network.


November 24, 2010
— The greatest obstacle is legal, not financial. Presumably, the DPLA would exclude books currently being marketed, but it would include millions of books that are out of print yet covered by copyright, especially those published between 1923 and 1964, a period when copyright coverage is most obscure, owing to the proliferation of “orphans”—books whose copyright holders have not been located. Congress would have to pass legislation to protect the DPLA from litigation concerning copyrighted, out-of-print books. The rights holders of those books would have to be compensated, yet many of them, especially among academic authors, might be willing to forgo compensation in order to give their books new life and greater diffusion in digitized form. Several authors protested against the commercial character of Google Book Search and expressed their readiness to make their work available free of charge in memoranda filed with the New York District Court."

Here are three websites to familiarize yourself:



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