I met with Brewster Kahle from the Internet Archive yesterday. It was really inspiring to see how this man seems to be completely impervious to pessimism. He has a goal: universal access to all human knowledge and he is determined to make it a reality.
So, where do you start when you have this as the goal?
Step 1: digitise all the books in the Library of Congress (about a million) and make them freely available on the Internet. Kahle and his small (about 20) Archive staff are working with both the Indian and Chinese government, starting with public domain books and attempting to push the courts here to allow them to publish out of print books still under copyright protection. The last step - to digitise and make accessible books still in circulation and under copyright protection - will be the greatest hurdle, but in light of recent events, maybe not as far off as you would think.
The Archive will also host anything you want preserved, as long as it is going to be made accessible to all under either a Creative Commons license or public domain dedication. He also works with archives around the world to help them raise money to digitise and make their cultural assets accessible to all. Having developed a really cheap way of digitising multimedia materials, Kahle is ready to teach others how simple it is if you are really committed to making universal access a reality.
Kahle also showed us the Book Mobile, a van with a satellite dish equipped with a high quality printer that they recently took around Uganda, delivering books to rural villages and schools - some of which were able to start a reading program for the first time.
We saw another book mobile at Lessig's Free Culture event last night at Stanford. Eric Eldred was standing outside his own living-space-cum-library at the Stanford Law School offering free printed copies of the book that was being sold downstairs. Eldred, a wonderful, gentle man, said that he was going on a cross-country tour soon, to deliver free books to anyone who wanted them.
Now this is what you call passion.