Whitepaper for the Library Leaders Forum held at the Internet Archive in October 2016.
Transforming Our Libraries into Digital Libraries: A digital book for every physical book in our libraries
Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive Library Leaders Forum Discussion Document, October 2016
Today, people get their information online—often filtered through for-profit platforms. If a book isn’t online, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Yet much of modern knowledge still exists only on the printed page, stored in libraries. Libraries haven’t met this digital demand, stymied by costs, e-book restrictions, policy risks, and missing infrastructure. We now have the technology and legal frameworks to transform our library system by 2020. The Internet Archive, working with library partners, proposes bringing millions of books online, through purchase or digitization, starting with the books most widely held and used in libraries and classrooms. Our vision includes at-scale circulation of these e-books, enabling libraries owning the physical works to substitute them with lendable digital copies. By 2020, we can spark a new “Carnegie moment” in which thousands of libraries unlock their analog collections for a new generation of learners, enabling free, long-term, public access to knowledge.