Universal access to all knowledge is within our grasp

December 29, 2006

The Internet Archive

Via Quentin Stafford-Fraser’s Status-Q blog, I came across this fascinating talk by Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian, Director and Co-founder of the Internet Archive, which has been working to provide universal access to all human knowledge for more than fifteen years.

Play audio file

It’s a couple of years old, but Kahle’s major point – that libraries are not important simply as repositories of knowledge, but that they make it available for research, thus expanding the sum total of that knowledge in the world and improving it – is anything but redundant. If you’ve wondered how Google Book Search, Amazon Search Inside and others obtain their content, here’s where it’s at. There’s also great stuff on the library of Alexandria, which according to some historians managed to collect 75% of all books available at the time before it was destroyed, and the historical and technological changes that had to occur before it was possible to attempt the same thing again.

At one point in the talk, Kahle calculates the cost of storing every word in the world’s current largest library, the Library of Congress, and comes up with the pretty reasonable figure of $60,000. On the same tip, Wikipedia’s currently shaking the tin for a funding drive – as if you hadn’t noticed. They’ve collected three quarters of a million dollars at time of writing – imagine. Go donate, and add your name to a slate which will definitely be around forever.

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