Brewster Kahle really seems to like archiving things. He founded the Internet Archive, in fact, which hosts an archive of the entire Internet, as well as a great deal of public-domain material, the eTree archive of shows from bands that allow live taping of their shows (including the local band Big Smith, which is made up of members of a family with whom mine had both intermarriage and a blood feud a hundred years ago). Now, the AP reports, Kahle has decided he wants to archive a copy of every single book ever published.

Even Kahle himself realizes he probably will not actually reach that goal. Google Books estimates that 130 million books exist, and Kahle is aiming at a more conservative ten million, equivalent to a university library—he would like to collect every book ever written, but realizes he likely will not get there. But he has received 500,000 books so far, which are being indexed and carefully stored.

But these books are not being collected electronically the way Kahle’s other archives have been—they will be physically stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. He’s concerned about keeping the books safe against a future when they might possibly be needed.

The idea does make me chuckle, a little—not because of anything wrong with it; the preservation of knowledge is always a laudable goal. But it brings to my gamer and SF fan’s mind the idea of a post-holocaust game or movie setting in which Brewster Kahle’s warehouse is one of the sole remaining repositories of human knowledge.

Regardless, best of luck to Brewster Kahle in his efforts. As the son of two librarians, I have to respect someone who wants to make sure books are well-preserved.


  1. There are a many active continuing roles for print in context with its screen display. Here are some. • BACK-UP: capacity for regeneration of the screen copy as may be needed due to systems failure. (i.e. proprietary take-down, governmental censorship, copy right infringement take-down) • MASTERING: capacity for augmentation, enhancement or perfecting of faulty screen copy (i.e., adding missing pages, foldouts or color to Google book copy, adding a missing image of the book cover, or increased image resolution or enhancement) • AUTHENTICATION: capacity for resolution of forensic, production or provenance questions (i.e., cotton content of 19th century paper, distinction between copy and source faults, evidence of copy manipulation or sophistication, verification of margins and edges)

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