One Country is Digitizing All Books, And Making Them Free For Its Citizens

One Country is Digitizing All Books, And Making Them Free For Its Citizens

The news: Norway is well on its way to digitizing every book in its National Library and making them all free to access for any Norwegian citizen. That means hundreds of thousands of books will be available to anyone accessing the collection online with a Norwegian IP address.

According to the National Library, “all published content, in all media” is being digitized, which includes “material dating from the Middle Ages up to the current day.” 

The plan: The digitization of the library collection began in 2006 and is expected to take 20 to 30 years, with an end goal of the mid-2020s. The Norwegian Legal Deposit Act requires everything published in the country be deposited in the National Library’s collections, which means everything published in Norway will eventually be uploaded to the digital archives. According to the library’s website, “several terabytes of data” flow into the archives each day, ranging from books to handwritten documents to audio files. 

The reasons the National Library gives for digitization are quite noble. “Users should be able to enjoy access to a large variety of digital content from wherever they are located, and whenever they want,” it says on its website. It’s digitizing what it calls “the nation’s collective memory” and will “safeguard the collection for future generations.”

Why this matters: This is actually really freaking cool. All published material, regardless of copyright, will eventually be at the fingertips of every Norwegian citizen. Non-copyrighted material, and material with expired copyrights, will be available for download.

Sure, Google might be trying to do this by itself, but it’s notable to see an entire country get behind this sort of digitizing effort. As The Atlantic notes, Norway already has the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, preserving the agriculture history of the world. The country seems hell-bent on ensuring that the totality of human knowledge is around for a long time to come.

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Benjamin Cosman

Ben graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Political Science. He recently traveled through New England looking for pie. His second-favorite pastime is googling pictures of politicians laughing.

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