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Books

The End of Paper Books 669

Hugh Pickens writes "Books are on their way to extinction, writes Kevin Kelly, adding that we are in a special moment when paper books are plentiful and cheap that will not last beyond the end of this century. 'It seems hard to believe now, but within a few generations, seeing an actual paper book will be as rare for most people as seeing an actual lion.' But a prudent society keeps at least one specimen of all it makes, so Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, has decided that we should keep a copy of every book that Google and Amazon scan so that somewhere in the world there was at least one physical copy to represent the millions of digital copies. That way, if anyone ever wondered if the digital book's text had become corrupted or altered, they could refer back to the physical book that was archived somewhere safe. The books are being stored in cardboard boxes, stacked five high on a pallet wrapped in plastic, stored 40,000 strong in a shipping container, inside a metal warehouse on a dead-end industrial street near the railroad tracks in Richmond California. In this nondescript and 'nothing valuable here' building, Kahle hopes to house 10 million books — about the contents of a world-class university library. 'It still amazes me that after 20 years the only publicly available back up of the internet is the privately funded Internet Archive. The only broad archive of television and radio broadcasts is the same organization,' writes Kelly. 'They are now backing up the backups of books. Someday we'll realize the precocious wisdom of it all and Brewster Kahle will be seen as a hero.'"

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