A link found from Matt Haughey’s a.wholelottanothing.org lead me to a talk by Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive. His organization is working a variety of projects to make public domain content available in an “internet library”. Among these projects is the WayBack Machine, which archives the web.
The talk is part of a series at the Library of Congress and runs 1 hour and 26 minutes in RealVideo format. It is worth watching: Brewster Kahle: Public Access to Digital Materials (1hr 26min RealVideo).
Kahle’s basic idea is universal access to all human knowledge. Every book, speech, TV show, website, concert, etc. should be available to all of us. He looks at three main questions:
- Should we? Yes!
- Can we? Is it logistically possible from a technical and financial perspective? His answer: Yes.
- May we? Will we be allowed to make all knowledge available under law? His answer: Yes.
- Will we? He leaves this as an open question.
His numbers on the cost to digitize (scanning, etc.), store (disk space), and make available (bandwidth) all human knowledge are fascinating. According to Kahle, the hardware and labour costs required to make all book and all television and all music ever created available are not that difficult (within the hundreds of millions of dollars).
Taking books for example:
- There are roughly 100,000,000 books ever created
- The Library of Congress has about 26,000,000 books (I was impressed and amazed that the Library of Congress has 26% of all books ever created)
- A book costs between $10 and $100 to acquire and digitize
- A book takes up about 1Mb of space
- 26,000,000 books would take 26 TeraBytes.
- 1 TeraByte costs about $60,000
- The entire Library of Congress could be stored for about $1.5 million dollars
- Books can be printed, cut, and bound for $1/book from a mobile book printer (~$15,000)
If anyone has the right to make these claims – it would be Kahle – who’s organization is storing massive amounts of data as part of their WayBack project and other projects.