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Books, Books, Books…

The Million Book Project, an international venture led by Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, Zhejiang University in China, the Indian Institute of Science in India and the Library at Alexandria in Egypt, has just completed the digitization of more than 1.5 million books, which are now available online, as a press release communicated on November 27.

The project was initiated in 2002, and now anyone who can get on the Internet now has access to a collection of books the size of a large university library. The Million Book Project represents the world’s largest, university-based digital library of freely accessible books. At least half of its books are out of copyright, or were digitized with the permission of the copyright holders, so the complete texts are or eventually will be available free. As per the countries engaged in the project, most of the books are in English or in Chinese. However, more than 20 languages are represented among the 1.5 million books, a little more than 1 percent of all of the world’s books.

Though the long-term goal of the Universal Library is to make books, artwork and other published works available online for free, about half of the current collection remains under copyright. Until the permission of the copyright holders can be documented, or copyright laws are amended, only 10 percent or less of those books can be accessed at no cost.

“Knowledge is structured in consciousness”, says an old Eastern wisdom saying. Digitalising is an important step of making books virtually accessible to all, but only what you have integrated into your live becomes part of your living – no matter how many books are the outflow of the mental activity of mankind over the centuries.

A bookshop in Berne. In a virtual library you can’t just take a book into your hands and start turning the pages.

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