So, first a big thank you to everyone who worked hard to make sure we had a respectable-looking catalog by October 25, and particularly the efforts to get the requested books done.
So, how did the big event go?
I (on LibriVox’s behalf) was invited by the Internet Archive to participate in the official launch of the the Open Library, a project affiliated with the Open Content Alliance. I didn’t really realize what a big event it would be. See some press on it here, here, here, here, and here.
LibriVox was just a little part, but you will all be happy to know, we triggered the biggest and most spontaneous applause of the keynote speech (more on that later).
This was a huge gathering, of about 600 people, with attendees from Internet Archive, Adobe, WallStreet Journal, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Yahoo!, Google, Lulu, Technorati (Japan), SF Chronicle, Smithsonian Institute, MSN Search, a huge number of university libraries–University of Toronto, Berkley, Stanford etc.— among many other.
We, along with about 5 others demos, had a little kiosk demonstrating LibriVox. Unfortunately I am not much of a cocktail-work-the-room salesman, or we might have been even more popular, but as it was we had a healthy amount of interest from the crowd who stopped by to take a look at the website, have a listen to some samples, check out the forum, and ask questions. (The first question was: “How are you funded?” “Ha!” I said. “By the good will of an amazing number of superb volunteers, care to join us?”)
The real meat of the event was to announce the partnership to scan books in the public domain and make them available through the Open Library, and a demo of the scanning & book printing technology. Essentially 2 digital cameras take photos of the pages of the book, so you get faithful reproductions. The cool thing is the added aspect of the print-on-demand (lulu is involved): with the roving bookmobile, these books can be printed and bound, and you’ve got a real live copy, bound and beautiful. They are quite nice looking!
The Open Library has started with 14 books, selected by University of California; this will be the American Fiction collection, to grow I assume. I would like, if we get the support of our LibriVox family, to propose some kind of formal partnership with Archives to produce, at least, audio versions of these 14 books. Microsoft is funding scanning of a further 150,000 books over the next 2 years, so we’ll have our work cut out if we wish to keep up!
Now to the speech itself.
Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, and the driving force behind this project made the case for his exciting challenge: to deliver “universal access to all human knowledge” … to provide an Alexandria for all the people everywhere (as long as they have internet access!). As he went through his speech/presentation, there were a number of periods of clapping, hurrahs etc. But this moment made me a little teary-eyed, I must admit. Brewster was demonstrating, on-screen, the Open Library version of the International Episode … and after flipping through a few pages, he clicked on the “listen” button.
You can’t hear it in the recording I made—which is stuck in my iriver for the moment, I’ll have it available in a couple of days, sorry about that!—but there was an audible gasp in the audience, as in “wow” … and then on came Alex reading for LibriVox… when Brewster pressed stop, the crowd went crazy with applause.
How cool is that?
Now, back to our studios!
By the way, LibriVox is ALWAYS looking for volunteers!