Internet Archive Launches Library for the Visually Impaired With 1M Books

Internet Archive today launched a new service that will provide more than a million books in a specially designed format that can be read by visually impaired readers. The new service is part of the the non-profit’s Open Library project, which has been scanning and digitizing hundreds of thousands of books for the past several years and now has more than a million in its index. Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, who funds some of the Archive’s costs through his charitable foundation, said the new service more than doubles the number of books previously available to visually impaired readers.

“Every person deserves the opportunity to enhance their lives through access to the books that teach, entertain and inspire,” Kahle said in a statement. “Bringing access to huge libraries of books to the blind and print disabled is truly one of benefits of the digital revolution.” The Archive founder — who also founded and later sold it to Amazon (s amzn) — said the project is also asking individuals to donate books to add to the digital library, the first 10,000 of which the project will fund the digitization of (the rest will be financed by donations from foundations, companies and government).

The books being offered as part of the project are scanned by Archive volunteers and employees in 20 locations across the U.S. (and in several other countries), including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and the Library of Congress. The books are then digitized using a special format called DAISY, which can be used by the visually impaired or downloaded to devices that read the text aloud. Some books have come from other digitization projects, while scanned books come from the collections of more than 150 libraries that belong to the Open Content Alliance, which is also affiliated with the Internet Archive.

The Open Library, which was originally launched in 2007 and whose motto is “A web page for every book,” just got a new design and features, including improved search. Google also has a book-scanning and digitization project called Google Books, which the company claims has more than 10 million books in digital format. Kahle has been building the Internet Archive and the Open Library since the late 1990s, with a vision of providing millions of digital books for free. A video of his talk at the TED conference in 2007 is embedded below.

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