Brewster Kahle, over at the Open Content Alliance, has an interesting post about the cost of digitizing books. His overall take: it’s very cheap, especially relative to the cost of maintaining brick & mortar libraries. And, I might add, incredibly worthwhile, especially when you factor in the negligible additional cost of reproducing a digitized book. As a way of preserving our cultural heritage in the face of certain change, and possibly pernicious attack, it’s money that we absolutely need to spend.
The next step is to figure out how to get those digitized books into the hands of readers, with some responsible way of preserving some reasonable level of copyright protection for authors (needless to say, perhaps, that I consider our current copyright laws unreasonable). Kindle doesn’t do it; Apple’s probably upcoming netbook/tablet/ginormous ipod touch might, but only for a few. Perhaps the OLPC consortium might look into repurposing their technology as eBook technology; that might help more people, and respond to greater need, and spread information more widely and democratically and at lower cost, than the rather silly and instantly outmoded device that they came up with (and that I first saw in Brewster’s offices; thanks, Brewster & Becky).