Why do we need to make book scanners more accessible to everyone?
I love books, I love reading and I am doing it everyday. I believe that, through the internet, knowledge (currently for example contained in Books) should be as free as the air that we are breathing. This is my theoretical optimum, that has not been adjusted for reality, so please continue reading.
When I got infected with my passion for scanning Books in 2010, there were not many commercial book scanners and none of them that were available were affordable for the average book owner.
It looked like the future would be bright with Google and the archive.org digitizing millions of Books on an industrial scale and with big libraries following in their path.
Now, seven years later, the future turned out to be less bright than anticipated. Although the treasure troves of Google and the archive.org contain more valuable data than ever, very little of this Data has made its way to the public, due to publishing houses fighting constantly and with great effort.
I see here a pattern emerging, that has formed in other fields as well. When the first cassette-recorders came out, the music industry complained loudly and insisted that they are all doomed to die now, when everybody could record music from a radio and then own a tape-record. This turned out not to be true, the music industry started selling affordable records to the public, so people had a legal alternative, which they used.
When Napster and Kazaa came out, the music industry again, complained loudly about their imminent death, and then survived through creating legal channels for people to enjoy music over the internet through flat rate subscription models like Spotify.
The same pattern happened with the movie industry, again, widely available broadband connections combined with 1-click-file hosters or Bittorrent lead to the fulfillment of the existing demand of the public. They expected to be able to stream movies everywhere, anytime and the movie industry cried loudly about their imminent death, but survived again through creating legal channels to fulfill the demand of the market, in this case Netflix and Amazon Movies.
The outcries about the imminent death in regards of publishing houses weren’t heard as loudly, because they mostly happened in courthouses, where publishing houses tried to sue Google & Co for the Google Books project. But still, the situation is the same.
The book publishing industry is still an inefficient mess that so far wasn’t pressured enough to renew themselves and to develop new business models, because so far they could deal individually with other big corps through courts and did not had to deal with a grassroots movement that can’t easily be stopped by actions in courts.
I state that the book publishing industry is in the same state like the music industry right after bittorrent became popular. They understood that there is a problem with their business model, they are currently going the path through the courts and through lobbyism to defend the business model, but they don’t yet have a strong incentive to actually rethink their business model.
In the past we observed that the fight through legislation and the courts is the first and usually pretty unsuccessful phase. The next phase always was a grassroots movement through decentralisation, that finally forced the top management of the affected industry to rethink the business model. We now need to start that grass roots movement, as the attempts of Google and the archive.org were not successful in regards of enabling public access.
We need to make sure that we build a system where authors can once again live off of their craft after the unfortunately necessary destructive phase of this imminent system change, and we need to keep this in mind throughout our journey for free knowledge.
For this we will need two things – first, easily available, destruction-free and affordable automatic book scanners and secondly some kind of distribution system, that connects authors directly with book lovers, circumventing the useless dinosaurs called publishing houses.
I am dealing with the first part and am leaving the second part to the global crowd. There is potential in technology like bittorrent and IPFS, but I leave this potential to others who want to explore it, as I think that the first part is equally important.