An Ark Full of Books

Library of Congress Reading Room

Although the Library of Congress stores over 100 million copies of books, journals, and films, the collection does not house every book published.  In his article for the New York Times – In a Flood Tide of Digital Data, an Ark Full of Books and Film – David Streitfeld describes Brewster Kahle, a wealthy entrepreneur with the determination to create his own repository, a back-up collection in case of disaster.

Comparing the fledgling project of 500,000 volumes to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, Kahle hopes eventually to collect 10 million books in his archive from donations of books discarded from libraries, universities, and individuals. The Burlingame public library donated three hundred linear feet of Scientific American, Time, Vogue, and other periodicals to create space for their computer lab.

Preserving the physical books is Kahle’s way of offering a time capsule for future readers; as a man who made his money by digitizing Web pages, he has more faith in the real book than electronic versions.  What does that say about the future of e-books?

2 thoughts on “An Ark Full of Books

  1. That’s a lot of books to collect! I think it doesn’t say that e-books won’t live happily ever after, but maybe not in the current format. The problem with “recorded” material is that the way of storage may change. Like: if you have a cassette tape of a pop group from the 1970s you can’t play it unless you’ve got a cassette recorder (which not many people have). I think you have the same problem with e-books from the 2010s. You may not be able to read them in 2040 unless you have an archaic PDF-reader program, or a Kindle (you know, when there wasn’t any electronic paper yet and you had to read from a hand-held device) or an ePub reader. Paper books can always be read. 🙂

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