Meanwhile, in San Francisco…

While attendees in Monterey listened to the Tuesday evening panel musing over Google’s digitization project, a (rival) group called the Open Content Alliance was hosting its inaugural event in San Francisco. The OCA founding members include the Internet Archive (which will host the repository); Yahoo! Search; Hewlett-Packard Labs; Adobe Systems; the University of California; the University of Toronto; the European Archive; the National Archives (U.K.); O’Reilly Media, Inc.; and Prelinger Archives. (For background, see our NewsBreak, posted Oct. 3) Last night, during the party of about 400 people, a big shoe dropped—Microsoft announced that it was joining the OCA and committed to kick off their support by funding the digitization of 150,000 books in 2006.

According to Lisa Picarille, our reporter at the event, an “impressive group” of people mingled first during a cocktail hour and had a chance to look at the eight demonstration “booths” that were set up (showing the Internet Archive’s Petabox storage, Searchable Books/Flipbook, print-on-demand, and more). Then, the Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle took the stage and showed this presentation, which detailed the OCA’s vision of an Open Library and showed a book scanning demo.

The scanner scans one page at a time at 500 dpi and costs approximately 10 cents per page. The scanner is essentially a cradle that holds a book at a 90 degree angle. The operator has to turn the pages. It takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to scan an entire book – depending on the size of the book. “The quality is astonishing to me,” Kahle said. “It was a real challenge to get true color.”

Kahle said that 80 percent of the books published between 1923 and 1964 are out of copyright and those are the books the OCA will focus on first. Next the group will expand the project to include orphaned books, where the publisher and author can not be found. Next will be out of print works. Finally, the OCA is going to tackle in-print works. He called the overall effort “tricky but doable.”

The OCA is working with to create print-on-demand versions of the books that can be purchased for around $8. Users will also be able to listen to audio versions of the digitized books, provided by LibriVox.

The OCA partners each spoke briefly at the end of the presentation, with Microsoft’s announcement coming last. “We are excited to be the newest member,” said Danielle Tiedt, Microsoft’s General Manager of Search Content Acquisitions . “It’s a wonderful cause that is important to us. We are excited to make search more valuable by adding more content.”

In addition to joining the OCA, Microsoft’s press release announced that MSN Search will launch MSN Book Search, “which will support MSN Search’s efforts to help people find exactly what they’re looking for on the Web, including the content from books, academic materials, periodicals and other print resources. MSN Search intends to launch an initial beta of this offering next year.” Watch for a NewsBreak by Barbara Quint reporting the details of this news.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.

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