Digitize ALL the Books! (If you happen to be Norway)

Weebl wobbles but he don't fall down.

Weebl wobbles but he don’t fall down.

Where can ya digitize books?
Yeah we got digitalized books in Norway!
Forget America!

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about with that little intro, you need to go check this out. Be warned, you will also need a power drill to get the song out of your head.

Anyway, so Norway is going to digitize some books and by “some books” I mean “all the books” and by “all the books” I mean “all of the books in Norwegian.” Then they’re going to, you know, make them available to everyone in the country who has access to the Internet which is, for the record, almost everybody. See, this is why America can’t have nice things. The Norwegian government is putting knowledge and learning ahead of copyright and commerce and trying to make sure that their citizens have access to a vast range of knowledge because a country full of stupid people is a bad thing.

Meanwhile, over here in the States, Google had to fight tooth and nail to prove that the digitization of books is a transformative technology. This is a thing that happens in America every few years where we all have to buy the White Album again because streaming is better than Mp3 which is better than CD which is better than cassette which is better than 8 track which is better than vinyl which is cheaper than going to see the Beatles in concert. Transformative technology is quite all right with big content just so long as it’s transformative on their terms. If someone comes along who doesn’t work in “the industry” and dares to have an idea to do something amazing with existing stuff, then they need to be sued into oblivion because big content hasn’t gotten that law passed that says it’s okay to subject innovative people to a firing squad.

I’ll further discuss this in a future article, but the fact is that the music industry would really like to get paid every time you hum the latest Lady Gaga tune while waiting for the bus. Indeed, they’d quite like to collect two fees, one for your covering the song and two for the public performance. If you’re an amateur movie critic, you can bet that YouTube will dump your video if you use a snippet of a film because screw you and your Fair Use too. The world of publishing stepped onto the bandwagon with both of these fine businesses and, like their firends, brought their 19th century business model to a 21st century reality.

I’m not one of those people who will write “If America is to survive and continue leading in the coming decades…” because there are so many things broken with our country that no one or one hundred solutions will fix anything. However, I will posit this: If we want our kids to grow up and be smarter than a fifth grader, then we need to open education and access to knowledge and information. Plenty of people will still buy books even if everyone has access to a vast online warehouse of information and knowledge. They may not buy them in the manner that big publishers are used to, but it’s not like there isn’t opportunity and money to be made in selling books. I don’t think anyone will get hurt, physically or financially, because they were able to freely access a book online and use the information they find there to develop knowledge and, eventually, wisdom. I may be wrong, but it’s certainly something we’ve not tried yet. I don’t know, but it might be worth a go.

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