From Wired's upcoming December issue: more about Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" feature.I put some quotes I found interesing below. I'm guessing it will cost more than $10 million to make all published works available and searchable electronically.
Most important, it's still shockingly difficult to find information buried in books. Even as the Internet has revived hope of a universal library and Google seems to promise an answer to every query, books have remained a dark region in the universe of information. We want books to be as accessible and searchable as the Web. On the other hand, we still want them to be books.
The copyrights to these titles are spread among countless owners. How was it possible to create a publicly accessible database from material whose ownership is so tangled? Amazon's solution is audacious: The company simply denies it has built an electronic library at all.
"It's shameful," Kahle continues, "because we have the tools to make all books available to everybody. You need three things. Technically, you need storage and connectivity. Storage is easy. For under $10 million, you can store all published works of humankind back to the Sumerian tablets. The last time they tried this was in Alexandria, and they had an innovative storage mechanism, too. They had papyrus, and papyrus was astonishing compared to clay tablets. But we can do better than the Alexandrians, because we also have connectivity. I have traveled in Uganda and in rural Kenya and seldom been more than one day's walk from an Internet cafÃ©. It is technologically possible for most kids in the world to have access to all the books in the world."
The third item on Kahle's list has nothing to do with technological know-how; it's simply political will. Here, he finds the situation mixed. "We live in an open society in which the concept of widespread knowledge is embraced as a goal of governance," he says. "Just look at our libraries. Public libraries spend $7.6 billion a year; academic libraries spend another $5 billion." That's the good news. The budgets are hard evidence of a public commitment to the Alexandrian ideal. But on the other hand, almost none of this money goes to digitizing books.