Aaron Swartz gave a talk at the Berkman Center this week on the Open Library Project. he also did a Q&A session.
"Q.You are working on creating the Open Library, an online database that contains all the world's books for anyone to view. What kind of significance does this project have in our age?
I think this is one of the grand challenges for the Internet era. The vast majority of our cultural legacy is in books -- books are where you go when you have a great idea you want to share, a great story you want to publish, a classic piece of art -- it's hard to understate their importance. But in an era where few people venture beyond a search engine when doing research, making these resources more available for Internet users a crucial challenge...
Q.Do you think publishers are threatened by the Open Library concept as record labels are with free music file sharing?
Not at all; the publishers have been extremely helpful. We're only scanning books that are out-of-copyright, which is a small minority of what's being published. For the other books, we're working with publishers and libraries to make them available in every way we know how: through purchasing online or in a local bookstore, picking up a copy in a library or through digital interlibrary loan, etc. We're helping publishers get the word out about their books...
Q.How is the Open Library project different from Google's project to make an online book archive?
Google is scanning a lot of books but they're not doing much more than just putting them online. We want to do much more than that and become the hub for information about books. We let users come to our site and add more information to their favorite books, find the books in various places, browser and sort by categories, and so on.