Subprime Attention Crisis makes the case that the core advertising model driving Google, Facebook, and many of the most powerful companies on the internet is—at its heart—a multibillion dollar financial bubble. Drawing parallels to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, Tim shines a spotlight on the lack of transparency, flawed incentives, and outright fraud that keep this machine running.
On October 14, the Internet Archive hosted a talk with the author and New York Times technology reporter Kashmir Hill. Their discussion tackled:
Why data-driven, online advertising may be much, much less effective than it looks
The long-term impact of the COVID-19 recession on the media and online ads
Whether or not the giants of Big Tech are already “too big to fail”
This discussion focused not only on the problems of advertising, but also on the future, and how we might be able to transition to a better, more financially robust internet. Joining the discussion was Desigan Chinniah, who co-leads Grant for the Web—a $100 million fund launched by Coil, Mozilla, and Creative Commons to spur open standards and new economic models for the web beyond advertising.
NOTE: We urge you to purchase a copy of Tim’s new book, Subprime Attention Crisis, via our local bookseller, The Booksmith. The first 50 purchasers will receive an autographed copy.
This year’s virtual Library Leaders Forum closes on Tuesday, following three weeks of inspiring discussion about the future of libraries in the digital age. The final session will focus on the impact of controlled digital lending on communities, particularly those affected by COVID-19.
In last week’s session, we heard from librarians on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. Panelists shared how controlled digital lending has empowered libraries to get vital resources to those in need, despite lockdowns. “We were aware of [controlled digital lending] beforehand, but this pandemic has made us acutely aware of the need and opportunity,” said Stanford University’s chief technology strategist Tom Cramer. If you missed it, you can read a detailed recap of the session or watch the full recording.
The session demonstrated the power of digital tools for reaching marginalized communities in lockdown and beyond. We were therefore pleased to announce that Internet Archive is joining Project ReShare, a group of organizations developing an open-source resource sharing platform for libraries. Resource sharing, like controlled digital lending, has the power to break down the access barriers associated with commercial platforms.
The next session will focus on the impact that controlled digital lending is having on libraries and the communities they serve. Internet Archive founder and digital librarian Brewster Kahle will present the Internet Archive Hero Award to Michelle Wu, the visionary behind the practice. We’ll learn what inspired Michelle and how her work has empowered libraries during the current pandemic. There’s still time to register for free.
We also have a very special event taking place during the session to which everyone is invited. Join us for the grand reopening of Marygrove College Library and find out how digitization saved a valuable archive from being split up and lost. The event will help place the Forum’s discussions in a real-world context by showing the impact of controlled digital lending on one African American community. It will also explore the power of digitization for preserving key elements of our cultural heritage. Registration is free for this special event.
The Library Leaders Forum may be drawing to a close, but the library community can stay connected through the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign. The campaign builds on the work of the Forum by raising awareness of the positive impact of controlled digital lending. We hope the community will unite to protect this key library practice and make knowledge accessible for all.
Join us this Tuesday, October 20, at the final session of the Library Leaders Forum for a celebration of the reopening of the Marygrove College Library. Find out how digitization saved a valuable archive and preserved a community’s cultural heritage. RSVP here.
The Internet Archive is the newest library to join Project ReShare, a group of organizations coming together to develop an open source resource sharing platform for libraries.
“Internet Archive is pleased to partner with Project ReShare and its member libraries and consortia to build the next generation of library resource sharing tools,” says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “We believe in community-developed software and support library efforts to build systems that address the ever-present challenges of connecting readers and learners with books.”
The project was formed in 2018 in response to concern about market consolidation and the pace of innovation among vendors serving libraries. Rather than rely solely on commercial providers, members wanted to be able to set their own priorities.
“We felt we needed to introduce some additional alternatives,” says Jill Morris, chair of the Project ReShare steering committee and executive director of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium Inc. (PALCI). “Libraries need to be able to share ideas and resources with each other to best support their patron bases.”
As a Project ReShare member, the Internet Archive will have a voice in the project’s direction as it works directly with libraries, consortia, and other organizations to improve the value and impact of resource sharing networks and the tools used to support them.
“We are thrilled to have the Internet Archive share their expertise and contribute to the vision of ReShare,” says Morris.
The project is resulting in productive competition and a new suite of options unavailable in the past. Creating space to devise technology and system agnostic approaches, Project ReShare enables libraries to make decisions in the best interest of good patron service rather than forced into an ecosystem with limited choice, adds Morris.
“From my own experience working in an academic library, managing a print collection is a major undertaking,” says Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive. “We’re excited to join Project ReShare and the community that is developing new ways of connecting library patrons to the resources they need.”
Other ReShare members include library consortia (ConnectNY, GWLA, MCLS, PALCI, TAL, and TRLN), commercial entities (Knowledge Integration and Index Data) and university libraries (Grand Valley State University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State, Millersville University, Texas A&M, University of Alabama, and University of Chicago).
For the Policy session panel, librarians, authors, publishers, and advocates came together to discuss the role libraries should play in improving the digital landscape for the communities they serve. Potential policy solutions, such as copyright and labor law reforms, as well as collective action and boycotts to pressure publishers were discussed.
“Our country is struggling to find a common set of facts. The truth often lives behind paywalls while misinformation and disinformation go viral,” said Lila Bailey, policy counsel with the Internet Archive, moderating the discussion. “Equal access to information is foundational to our democratic society and it’s part of why libraries exist.”
Digital materials hold the promise for expanded access, but the outcome is not guaranteed. As publishers refuse to sell e-books, but rather license them, libraries are responding with a variety of strategies including Controlled Digital Lending – the digital equivalent of traditional lending.
As libraries evolve with the changing landscape, leaders need tools to change for the better. Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said the balance of power is up for grabs and publishers are pushing for control.
“We need librarians to be trained to push back,” Brewster said. “We are fighters for our patrons. We should stand by libraries and help empower them.”
Carmi Parker, librarian for the Whatcom County Library System in Washington state, said the average price of e-book licensing more than tripled over the past decade and libraries are forced to repurchase more frequently. When McMillan recently limited libraries to buying one e-book in the first eight weeks after publication (instead of dozens of copies of best sellers), Parker’s library consortium launched a boycott. After 1,200 other public libraries joined the protest, the publisher bowed to the pressure and dropped the practice.
“The concern here is this pattern of increasing prices and increasingly limited licenses that impede our ability to offer books to our patrons,” Parker says. “We think that we sent the message that embargoes are not OK, but we still have the crippling prices and limitations. We need to use print lending as a model for how these e-books should work. That’s why I’m interested in Controlled Digital Lending because that’s exactly what it does.”
Kyle K. Courtney, copyright advisor & program advisor at Harvard University, said CDL is a complementary model that helps libraries preserve their mission of long-term preservation and access.
“CDL has emerged as one of several answers to deal with these access issues now,” Courtney says. “CDL helps fill this digital void by harnessing the library’s special role in copyright to broaden digital access. We are craving this kind of digital access.”
Some panelists underscored it was important to embrace new forms of dissemination, but that CDL was an incomplete solution in need of refinement.
Many authors are coming around to the idea that sharing their works openly can only help them gain readers, said Dean Smith, director of Duke University Press.
“We are focused on smart and sustainable Open Access,” says Smith, who adds that OA usage has made his press more relevant. CDL is especially useful for titles that are out of print to bring scholarship that is buried back into circulation, he said. Smith suggested a possible “buy button” be added to books offered on Internet Archive as a way to entice more participation in CDL.
There should be several ways for writers to market and sell their books beyond the large publishers and online outlets, according to Cory Doctorow, a science fiction author, activist and journalist, and special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He is a supporter of the Internet Archive and believes libraries should be able to scan books for CDL.
Among Doctorow’s policy wish list to improve digital access: reform the copyright law, change labor laws for writers to form strong unions, subject mergers to strict scrutiny, force breakups of monopolistic firms in publishing, distribution and retail, increase arts funding, and create a Library of Congress rights database.
Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel for Public Knowledge, said that the pandemic might be moving public opinion on some of these issues and lead lawmakers to consider new measures. CDL could be pitched as a solution to help address distance learning, public health, misinformation, disability rights and other relevant concerns.
Next week’s session of the Library Leaders Forum will focus on the community of practice that has developed around Controlled Digital Lending, and the panel discussion will bring together the librarians, technologists and educators who are working together to develop the next generation of library tools that incorporate & build upon Controlled Digital Lending. Registration is free and available now.
The following was a guest post by Brewster Kahle in Against The Grain (ATG). See the original article from September 28, 2020 on the ATG website here.
Back in 2006, I was honored to give a keynote at the meeting of the Society of American Archivists, when the president of the Society presented me with a framed blown-up letter “S.” This was an inside joke about the Internet Archive being named in the singular, Archive, rather than the plural Archives. Of course, he was right, as I should have known all along. The Internet Archive had long since grown out of being an “archive of the Internet”—a singular collection, say of web pages—to being “archives on the Internet,” plural. My evolving understanding of these different names might help focus a discussion that has become blurry in our digital times: the difference between the roles of publishers, bookstores, libraries, archives, and museums. These organizations and institutions have evolved with different success criteria, not just because of the shifting physical manifestation of knowledge over time, but because of the different roles each group plays in a functioning society. For the moment, let’s take the concepts of Library and Archive.
The traditional definition of a library is that it is made up of published materials, while an archive is made up of unpublished materials. Archives play an important function that must be maintained—we give frightfully little attention to collections of unpublished works in the digital age. Think of all the drafts of books that have disappeared once we started to write with word processors and kept the files on fragile computer floppies and disks. Think of all the videotapes of lectures that are thrown out or were never recorded in the first place.
Bookstores: The Thrill of the Hunt
Let’s try another approach to understanding distinctions between bookstores, libraries and archives. When I was in my 20’s living in Boston—before Amazon.com and before the World Wide Web (but during the early Internet)—new and used bookstores were everywhere. I thought of them as catering to the specialized interests of their customers: small, selective, and only offering books that might sell and be taken away, with enough profit margin to keep the store in business. I loved them. I especially liked the used bookstore owners—they could peer into my soul (and into my wallet!) to find the right book for me. The most enjoyable aspect of the bookstore was the hunt—I arrived with a tiny sheet of paper in my wallet with a list of the books I wanted, would bring it out and ask the used bookstore owners if I might go home with a bargain. I rarely had the money to buy new books for myself, but I would give new books as gifts. While I knew it was okay to stay for awhile in the bookstore just reading, I always knew the game.
Libraries: Offering Conversations not Answers
The libraries that I used in Boston—MIT Libraries, Harvard Libraries, the Boston Public Library—were very different. I knew of the private Boston Athenæum but I was not a member, so I could not enter. Libraries for me seemed infinite, but still tailored to individual interests. They had what was needed for you to explore and if they did not have it, the reference librarian would proudly proclaim: “We can get it for you!” I loved interlibrary loans—not so much in practice, because it was slow, but because they gave you a glimpse of a network of institutions sharing what they treasured with anyone curious enough to want to know more. It was a dream straight out of Borges’ imagination (if you have not read Borges’short stories, they are not to be missed, and they are short. I recommend you write them on the little slip of paper you keep in your wallet.) I couldn’t afford to own many of the books I wanted, so it turned off that acquisitive impulse in me. But the libraries allowed me to read anything, old and new. I found I consumed library books very differently. I rarely even brought a book from the shelf to a table; I would stand, browse, read, learn and search in the aisles. Dipping in here and there. The card catalog got me to the right section and from there I learned as I explored.
Libraries were there to spark my own ideas. The library did not set out to tell a story as a museum would. It was for me to find stories, to create connections, have my own ideas by putting things together. I would come to the library with a question and end up with ideas. Rarely were these facts or statistics—but rather new points of view. Old books, historical newspapers, even the collection of reference books all illustrated points of view that were important to the times and subject matter. I was able to learn from others who may have been far away or long deceased. Libraries presented me with a conversation, not an answer. Good libraries cause conversations in your head with many writers. These writers, those librarians, challenged me to be different, to be better.
Staying for hours in a library was not an annoyance for the librarians—it was the point. Yes, you could check books out of the library, and I would, but mostly I did my work in the library—a few pages here, a few pages there—a stack of books in a carrel with index cards tucked into them and with lots of handwritten notes (uh, no laptops yet).
But libraries were still specialized. To learn about draft resisters during the Vietnam War, I needed access to a law library. MIT did not have a law collection and this was before Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw. I needed to get to the volumes of case law of the United States. Harvard, up the road, had one of the great law libraries, but as an MIT student, I could not get in. My MIT professor lent me his ID that fortunately did not include a photo, so I could sneak in with that. I spent hours in the basement of Harvard’s Law Library reading about the cases of conscientious objectors and others.
But why was this library of law books not available to everyone? It stung me. It did not seem right.
A few years later I would apply to library school at Simmons College to figure out how to build a digital library system that would be closer to the carved words over the Boston Public Library’s door in Copley Square: “Free to All.”
Archives: A Wonderful Place for Singular Obsessions
When I quizzed the archivist at MIT, she explained what she did and how the MIT Archives worked. I loved the idea, but did not spend any time there—it was not organized for the busy undergraduate. The MIT Library was organized for easy access; the MIT Archives included complete collections of papers, notes, ephemera from others, often professors. It struck me that the archives were collections of collections. Each collection faithfully preserved and annotated. I think of them as having advertisements on them, beckoning the researcher who wants to dive into the materials in the archive and the mindset of the collector.
So in this formulation, an archive is a collection, archives are collections of collections. Archivists are presented with collections, usually donations, but sometimes there is some money involved to preserve and catalog another’s life work. Personally, I appreciate almost any evidence of obsession—it can drive toward singular accomplishments. Archives often reveal such singular obsessions. But not all collections are archived, as it is an expensive process.
The cost of archiving collections is changing, especially with digital materials, as is cataloging and searching those collections. But it is still expensive. When the Internet Archive takes on a physical collection, say of records, or old repair manuals, or materials from an art group, we have to weigh the costs and the potential benefits to researchers in the future.
Archives take the long view. One hundred years from now is not an endpoint, it may be the first time a collection really comes back to light.
Could we be smarter by having people, the library, networks, and computers all work together? That is the dream I signed on to.
I dreamed of starting with a collection—an Archive, an Internet Archive. This grew to be a collection of collections: Archives. Then a critical mass of knowledge complete enough to inform citizens worldwide: a Digital Library. A library accessible by anyone connected to the Internet, “Free to All.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brewster Kahle, Founder & Digital Librarian, Internet Archive
A passionate advocate for public Internet access and a successful entrepreneur, Brewster Kahle has spent his career intent on a singular focus: providing Universal Access to All Knowledge. He is the founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, one of the largest digital libraries in the world, which serves more than a million patrons each day. Creator of the Wayback Machine and lending millions of digitized books, the Internet Archive works with more than 800 library and university partners to create a free digital library, accessible to all.
Soon after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied artificial intelligence, Kahle helped found the company Thinking Machines, a parallel supercomputer maker. He is an Internet pioneer, creating the Internet’s first publishing system called Wide Area Information Server (WAIS). In 1996, Kahle co-founded Alexa Internet, with technology that helps catalog the Web, selling it to Amazon.com in 1999. Elected to the Internet Hall of Fame, Kahle is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and holds honorary library doctorates from Simmons College and University of Alberta.
At today’s Library Leaders Forum, Internet Archive founder and digital librarian Brewster Kahle announced that Michelle Wu will receive the 2020 Internet Archive Hero Award. The annual award recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Past recipients have included Phillips Academy, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead.
“Michelle Wu was ahead of her time in understanding the transition to the digital era and brought library lending into our new landscape,” said Kahle. “Not only did Michelle see a problem coming, she did something about it.”
Pamela Samuelson, the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that Wu’s scholarship and contributions to the field have been important. Said Samuelson, “Michelle’s articles explaining the concept have been very useful for students to have not just the reader’s perspective, or law student’s perspective, but how librarians are really taking the challenge of the digital age.”
Wu will receive the award and present an overview of her work during the final Library Leaders Forum session on October 20 at 10am PDT. Registration is free for the virtual event.
With library service impacted at global scale due to COVID-19, libraries have had to adjust their digital lending programs to meet the needs of the communities they serve. The crisis has proven the power and importance of digital tools in responding to crisis and empowering those who would otherwise be excluded from access to knowledge and education.
So where do we go from here? How can we harness the learnings from this extraordinary time to build the library of the 21st century? This October at the Library Leaders Forum, experts from the library, copyright, and information policy fields will come together for a three-week virtual event exploring the future of digital lending and its key role in a democratic society. Here are our three key discussion points:
Information policy in the digital age: how can we empower libraries?
Our first session will focus on policy: how can we build a healthy information ecosystem for the 21st Century? The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that digital access to library materials is more important than ever, and that our current models are not adequate to meet this need. Digital access is particularly important for the most vulnerable people in our society, including disadvantaged communities, people with print disabilities, and those affected by emergency. Information policy, therefore, has wide-ranging implications for equality and the right to education. In this session, librarians, authors, and publishers will come together to discuss what’s broken, what’s working, and the future of information policy and practice.
What is the role of controlled digital lending in the library of the future?
Our second session explores the community of practice around controlled digital lending. The power of this key library practice in helping libraries and educators reach marginalized communities and respond to emergencies has been demonstrated during the COVID-19 period. There are now hundreds of libraries using the practice to reach their communities while service is disrupted. The potential of controlled digital lending for contributing to a more equal society where everyone has access to knowledge is clear; how can we expand on the current uses of this powerful tool? In this session, we’ll learn from librarians, educators, and technologists who are developing next-generation library tools that incorporate and build upon controlled digital lending.
How does controlled digital lending impact communities & librarians?
Libraries serve communities, and our tools are successful when they have a positive impact on people’s lives. Our final session will therefore focus on first-hand experiences of the impact of controlled digital lending. We’ll hear from libraries that have implemented the practice and from library users about what it has meant for them. We look forward to hearing from those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response about how they are using digital library practices to adapt to the situation and continue to serve those who most need free access to digital materials.
Beyond the Forum: the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign
The issues raised at the Forum are not merely theoretical, but require urgent action in the face of a new lawsuit which threatens the practice of controlled digital lending and the age-old role of libraries in society. It is crucial for the future of libraries and the rights of our most vulnerable communities that the ideas and experiences shared during the forum are heard more widely. In order to empower the community to stay connected and make their voices heard after the Forum, we will launch the #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, defending the right of libraries to own, preserve and lend digital books. The campaign will turn the ideas discussed during the Forum into action, and the community into a movement for change.
Many of us know that the Internet is broken, so how do we build something better? On September 22, DWeb San Francisco invited a panel of experts to share their views on the most viable paths forward. The panelists included author & EFF advisor Cory Doctorow, Matrix.org co-founder Amandine Le Pape, decentralized social media researcher Jay Graber, and TechDirt’s Mike Masnick. They covered a range of approaches — including technical, regulatory, and organizational — that could bring us towards a future where our networks are more resilient, participatory, and decentralized.
Developer, and founder of Happening, Jay Graber, shared her insights on what she found hopeful about the decentralized web ecosystem, and some of the challenges that some of these protocols still need to grapple with moving forward.
Chief Operating Officer of Element and Co-founder of the Matrix.org Foundation, Amandine Le Pape, shared what she learned as Matrix built a new open standard for real-time communication from the ground up, as well as her ideas on how to counter the information silos of the big centralized platforms.
Journalist and co-founder of Techdirt, Mike Masnick, shared about the way people were realizing the need for change, and also some of his skepticism about how some proposed regulations to enforce interoperability may harm start-ups and other less-resourced projects. Masnick’s 2019 white paper, “Protocols, Not Platforms: A Technological Approach to Free Speech” has been an influential call to arms for the decentralized tech community.
As Mike Masnick writes:
At a time when so many proposals for how to deal with the big internet companies seem focused on spite and anger at those companies, rather than thoughtful discussions of how we get to what’s coming next, at the very least I’m hopeful that others can be inspired…to come up with their own ideas for a better, more proactive approach to a future internet.
Ultimately, that vision—building a better Internet and Web—is the North Star that the DWeb community aims for.
In the middle of a tumultuous period, peace is more important than ever. This year, the Internet Archive celebrated the International Day of Peace with a screening of the film Infinite Potential: The Life & Ideas of David Bohm—an exploration of a maverick physicist who turned to Eastern wisdom for insights into the profound interconnectedness of the universe and our place within it. Hosted by the Fetzer Memorial Trust and Imagine Films on September 20th, the event also included a special panel discussion on how Bohm’s ideas can be translated into a pathway to peace in the modern world.
Infinite Potential examines the life of David Bohm, a theoretical physicist from Pennsylvania who was forced to flee the United States during the Cold War due to his Communist leanings. Pursuing his research in Brazil, Israel, and the United Kingdom, he was exposed to a wide variety of different ideas and ideologies, which all shaped his interests in quantum physics, philosophy, and the nature of consciousness. His relationships with thinkers such as Jiddu Krishnamurti and Albert Einstein further shaped his ideas, leading him to develop unique theories about the fundamental nature of reality and our perception of it.
The screening of the documentary was followed by a panel entitled Quantum Potential: A Pathway to Peace, featuring several prominent leaders and activists. These included Dot Maver, Founding President of the National Peace Academy; Reverend Dr. Michael B. Beckwith, Founder and Spiritual Director of the Agape International Spiritual Center; Audrey Kitagawa, Board Chair of the Parliament of World Religions; Civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr.; Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation; and Marianne Williamson, a bestselling author, political activist and spiritual thought leader. Panel members discussed how Bohm’s ideas could be applied to our society, ways in which individuals could advance peace and unity, and why the interconnectedness of humanity matters now more than ever.