Internet archivist seeks 1 of every book written
RICHMOND, Calif. — Tucked away in a small warehouse on a dead-end street, an Internet pioneer is building a bunker to protect an endangered species: the printed word. ~ by MARCUS WOHLSEN AP
Brewster Kahle, 50, founded the nonprofit Internet Archive in 1996 to save a copy of every Web page ever posted. Now the MIT-trained computer scientist and entrepreneur is expanding his effort to safeguard and share knowledge by trying to preserve a physical copy of every book ever published.
“There is always going to be a role for books,” said Kahle as he perched on the edge of a shipping container soon to be tricked out as a climate-controlled storage unit. Each container can hold about 40,000 volumes, the size of a branch library. “We want to see books live forever.”
So far, Kahle has gathered about 500,000 books. He thinks the warehouse itself is large enough to hold about 1 million titles, each one given a barcode that identifies the cardboard box, pallet and shipping container in which it resides.
That’s far fewer than the roughly 130 million different books Google Inc. engineers involved in that company’s book scanning project estimate to exist worldwide. But Kahle says the ease with which they’ve acquired the first half-million donated texts makes him optimistic about reaching what he sees as a realistic goal of 10 million, the equivalent of a major university library.
“The idea is to be able to collect one copy of every book ever published. We’re not going to get there, but that’s our goal,” he said.
Recently, workers in offices above the warehouse floor unpacked boxes of books and entered information on each title into a database. The books ranged from “Moby Dick” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” to “The Complete Basic Book of Home Decorating” and “Costa Rica for Dummies.”
“The dedicated idea is to have the physical safety for these physical materials for the long haul and then have the digital versions accessible to the world,” Kahle said.
Along with keeping books cool and dry, which Kahle plans to accomplish using the modified shipping cointainers, book preservation experts say he’ll have to contend with vermin and about a century’s worth of books printed on wood pulp paper that decays over time because of its own acidity.