Distributed libraries: Book Servers and aggregation

Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive, who hosts the annual Books in Browsers conference, published a lovely reflection on the Bookserver project over at Publisher’s Weekly. He notes the ongoing debate about centralized aggregation (the global digital library model) vs. distribution of local silos of books (the traditional physical library model), noting the ways in which bookservers that support syndication and syncing have a foot in both worlds.

An excerpt:

The SheevaPlug Bookserver gets books closest to those who will use them. In areas with minimal networking, or where privacy matters, and the choice of reading materials may have immediate ramifications for liberty and survival, there are compelling reasons to get libraries down to the smallest, socially cohesive level. In many parts of the world that would be a village; in other societies, individualism makes the notion of walking around with all the books in the world in a single handheld device the ultimate distributed library.

The whole article is worth reading.

Making Books Transparent

Sayamindu and I have been contributing over the course of the year to a Bookserver initiative to define how digital texts are indexed, discovered, and distributed.  The Open Content Alliance organized a conference yesterday and today in San Francisco to help us move forward with Bookserver development, improve the draft specification.  It was an inspiring event, with a lot of good working code and interfaces to share with one another.  Brewster throws a mean party, and when he announced he was hosting one last night to celebrate the launch of the Bookserver project and the Archive’s move into a beautiful new space in the Presidio, some 500 people turned up.  I was pleased to run into Mary Lou, with four laptops sporting new Pixel Qi screens – low power, and yet so very hot.

I spoke about what OLPC is doing with this new specification – Sayamindu’s modified “Get Internet Archive Books” activity was the first client application to use the developing spec and beta book servers – and we spent some time brainstorming ways to improve OPDS.  It’s an open group and process – all input is welcome. Continue reading