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Today's quote:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

In praise of www.archive.org


The Internet Archive www.archive.org is far more than an Open Library; it’s a nonprofit institution that has become a cornerstone of archival activity throughout the world. Brewster Kahle is an Internet pioneer who wrote about the importance of preserving the digital commons in 1996.

He also built the Wayback Machine, without which an incalculable amount of the early Web would have been lost for good. The Internet Archive has performed pioneering work in developing public search tools for its own vast collections which researchers and journalists use on an almost daily basis in order to contextualize and interpret political reporting. These resources are unique and irreplaceable.

Of course, there has been pushback from publishers, but publishers don’t perform the kind of work required to preserve a cultural posterity. Publishers are not archivists. They obey the dictates of the market. They keep books in print based on market considerations, not cultural ones. Archiving is not in the purview or even the interests of big publishers, who indeed have an incentive to encourage the continuing need to buy.

In a healthy society, the need for authors and artists to be compensated fairly is balanced against the need to preserve a rich and robust public commons for the benefit of the culture as a whole. Publishers are stewards of the right of authors to make a fair living; librarians are stewards of cultural posterity. Brewster Kahle, and the Internet Archive, are librarians, and the Internet Archive is a new kind of library.

Like a traditional library, the Internet Archive buys or accepts donations of physical books. The archive scans its physical books, making one digital copy available for each physical book it owns. The digitized copies are then loaned out for a limited period, like a traditional library loan. The physical books from which the scans were made are stored and do not circulate, a practice known as "own-to-loan."

I have used the FREE services of www.archive.org for many years, giving me access to books which the local brick-and-mortar library or bookshop did not stock. It allowed to me dip into books for which I had only a passing interest, and it whetted my appetite for those which I wanted to add to my own collection by later ordering them via ebay or an online bookseller. It would be a huge tragedy indeed if www.archive.org ever disappeared, and so I have also given regular donations to keep it alive.

You may wish to do the same - click here.

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