Sunday, 15 April 2012

Books for All!

Here's a bit of interesting news for history buffs.  Apparently, rare and ancient texts owned by the Vatican and the Bodleian Library are going to be put into digital form and made available for public study.  This amounts to something like 1.5 million pages of previously largely unseen documents, which include works on the kabbalah, the Talmud, Hebrew manuscripts and the Gutenburg Bible.

I wonder who decides which texts to share and which to keep private, and why?  Conspiracy theorists could have a field day, pondering over alleged plots to retain the world's Really Big Secrets for a small elite.

Personally, I've found the best place to hide something is in plain sight. 

Thinking back to my time as a library assistant in the Religion and Philosophy Library, at Liverpool's Central Library, I can easily remember the thousands upon thousands of books stored away in the stacks.  Wouldn't it be great if each and every one of those - and all those like them, stashed away in libraries all over the world - were available in digital form for absolutely everyone to read?  It is theoretically possible, though it would be a huge task.   

Is there a gadget which can scan whole pages into a digital book format of some kind?  This way, the text wouldn't have to be re-typed.  A person would have to be able to read Latin, Greek or Hebrew though (or whichever old language a text happened to be in), - or else rely on those dodgy online translators which tend to be hit-and-miss. 

Today, we have ready access to more information than at any time in recorded history.  How we use that, and how we develop that, will be interesting to observe.

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