By Dennis Abrams
Alexis C. Madrigal’s headline for The Atlantic said it best: “Norway Decided to Digitize All the Norwegian Books.”
All of them. For, it seems, the National Library is planning to digitize all the books (in Norwegian at least) by the mid 2020s.
And it’s the law. “…all published content, in all media [must] be deposited with the National Library of Norway.” Which means that when the library has finished its scanning project, “the entire record of a people’s language and literature will be machine-readable and sitting in whatever we call the cloud in 15 years.”
So if you live in Norway (as indicated by your IP address), you will have access to the entire literary output of the 20th century, even, according to Madrigal, those still under copyright. Of course, non-copyrighted works from every era will also be available for download.
But as Madrigal goes on to point out, here in the United States, we still struggle to “make even a small percentage of English-language works accessible to the citizens of our fine country, despite the efforts of groups like the Digital Public Library of America, Hathi Trust, and (I dare say) Google.”
He concludes by asking, “Can America afford to be left behind?”
“…smaller countries with friendly attitudes toward government and the humanities surely have an easier task than Americans in preserving our past. But we’re hardly trying.
Our libraries do what they can, but the idea of digitizing literally every book published in this country is a goal that we should shoot for and fund.”
Read more about the National Library of Norway’s digitizing project here.