Brewster Kahle and Amy Brand, Director of the MIT Press, discussed the partnership between the MIT Press and the Internet Archive to digitize books on the Press’s deep backlist and make them available for 1 to 1 lending on the Internet Archive. The session was moderated by Wendy Hanamura, Director or Partnerships at the Internet Archive. She asked Brewster and Amy a series of questions (shown in italics below). Here is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Why are you doing this?
Amy: We will sell some of the books as eBooks. Much of what the Press had published had never been digitized so the books were no longer available. We wanted to make everything available that could be available. Materials have not been monetized but are out of print. The digitization is not costing us anything, so we gave editors the option of choosing their books for digitization.
Brewster: MIT Press has a huge backlist that is not very available. The opportunity to work with MIT was fantastic. If things are available in two different ways, they do not conflict commercially. We hope this reinforces what MIT is doing. Now we have a lot of books that have been scanned and are somewhat available. For example, one on the future of libraries from 1965 has now had 3,200 views.
How did you choose which were the right books for this program?
Amy; I have an agreement that gives two options: make them available through the Internet Archive and make them available for one-time lending. We reached out to authors and asked them about the project, and the vast majority were overjoyed. We started with 1,500 out of print books that were easily done, then went to pre-1995 books. Books not heavily illustrated are easier to scan.
What does the lending program mean?
Brewster: The idea started about six years ago and was pioneered by the Boston Public Library. We make books available in a controlled circulation system. There are never more electronic copies than there are print ones. One copy at a time works fine for the long tail. But that does not support a library system; what if we could make any library an open library and let them offer their inventory digitally as well as physically? Is lending a fair use? Lawyers have said it is because it is format shifting. But are we offending publishers? Does it help to bring books back into print?
Amy: Almost everything that we publish appears online in a few weeks in an unauthorized way–that’s just the reality of the internet. It may not be all right for every book we publish to be format shifted. We are launching our own eBook platform; we think libraries are interested in our open access content.
How are we paying for this?
Brewster: The Arcadia Fund has provided funding for the MIT Press books. The fund has agreed to do more similar projects with books from other presses. We get about 25 million downloads/month! Using our TV collection, we can analyze ads, closed captions, etc.
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.