The vision of being able to read books online has reached its climax; when buying books online was the only option, excerpts and samples can be found on Amazon.com give avid readers a chance to ‘preview’ a book without making the purchase. Book manuscripts are easily uploaded for review as a simple word processing document, and the rising trends in the blogosphere are encouraging writers to simply maintain an ‘active’ book as they provide entries. Novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction; the opportunities are endless to venture onward in the pursuit of reading.
Digitized books evolved with the introduction of scanning pages and uploading them onto the web. As Google jumped aboard with its Google Library project in 2004, hundreds of companies cried foul at the abuse of copyright laws. However, Google continued on with its partnerships with Harvard and Stanford libraries, encouraging a page-by-page scanning of each and every book in each of its requested categories. Students, researchers, and professors can get instant access to their library’s showcase with a few simple clicks.
Google Library continues to thrive today, and another alternative popped up shortly afterwards with the introduction of Open Library. This not-for-profit endeavor works under a similar format as Google Library’s digitized book initiative, and also offers a comprehensive internet archive of media including text, audio, and software. The vision statement reads “The vision is to create free web access to important book collections from around the world.. . .Books are scanned and then offered in an easy-to-use interface for free reading online.”
The Open Library hosts an Open Content Alliance, essentially working with entities such as HP Labs, Smithsonian Institution, Columbia University, and Rice University. Others include John Hopkins University Libraries and Research Libraries Group.
The easy access to the web today provides a ripe opportunity for avid readers and researchers to find full-content books without the trip to the library. Archives of real version of scanned books serve as a great primary resource without a tangible book in hand. Traditionalists would argue that the page-turning process in book reading is too difficult a habit to give up; however, books in the public domain at the Open Library can be printed out, and even sent off to a third party for binding.
Although controversial, efforts such as Google Library and the Open Library offer a significant shift in educational resources, hobbies in literary culture, and the quality of content available online today. Book publishers and writers can both benefit from increased exposure to new readers, and offer extended services beyond the basic pages of a book. With the ability to ‘view’ a real book on screen, readers can still use their reading styles to their advantage by printing, or reading and reviewing text directly from the computer!