One hundred thousand books for free? Strange, but almost true. The Internet-based InstaBook Corporation (www.instabook.net) has announced a new digital library initiative that it claims can promote literacy around the world.
In association with The Project Gutenberg Consortia Centre and other organisations, instabook.net says it has created a new service geared to take a wide range of books to libraries and other non-profit organisations.
Project Gutenberg is a global volunteer effort to digitise, archive and distribute cultural works. Founded in 1971, it is the oldest digital library. Most of its items are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make the items in its collection as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer.
Visitors to the instabook.net website can download for free any of nearly 100,000 titles and have them printed on demand if they have access to an InstaBook Digital Library.
The users will pay only the printing costs of the service - on average less than a dollar per book. Or, in this win-win deal which also helps the corporation, they can install an InstaBook Maker in their premises by paying the manufacturing cost of the equipment.
"The libraries that install this service in their premise will see an exponential increase of the titles they can offer to their customers," says InstaBook.
Immediately, they will add approximately 100,000 titles in many languages, which will always be available and in stock. Their customers will be able to ask for a book to be downloaded and printed, in editions which may be customised to their individual taste, argues the firm promoting the idea.
"Our hope is that in this way millions of books will be downloaded for free and be printed for pennies by the people that need them the most. For the price of a newspaper, people will be able to get a book instead," says Victor Celorio, the Mexico born inventor of the InstaBook Digital Libraries System.
Celorio believes this could promote literacy and access to inexpensive books around the world, especially for disadvantaged people.
"One of the reasons we developed the book on demand technology was because I grew up in a country without libraries or bookstores, and in those few that existed the books were too few and too expensive."
"With the extraordinary labour of the Project Gutenberg Consortia Center and
their affiliates around the world, which have captured hundreds of thousands of books in a digital format, our goal of offering inexpensive, personalised books on demand, anywhere, any time, is becoming a reality," he adds.
Colerio argues that with a single InstaBook Maker, a "tiny village anywhere can have a library just like in the large cities of developed countries and for a few dollars readers will create their own book collections".
In an interview, he explained that a 150-page book would take two minutes to produce from beginning to the finished product, if the electronic file has already been loaded into the Instabook machine. If it is downloaded from the network, add a minute or two.
The cost of printing a book is about 75 cents. "Think about it: a different title every two-three minutes, for 75 cents each! Compare this to a company in New York that specialises in short-run books and quotes $10.82 to produce 100 copies of the same book, plus a $100 processing fee, with about a three-four weeks delivery time," argues InstaBook.
It also partnered with PediaPress (www.pediapress.com), a company based in Germany that has created a technology by which customers of the online volunteer-crafted encyclopaedia Wikipedia can select articles from Wikipedia's million plus articles and create on-line their personalised encyclopaedia.
This personal encyclopaedia is then printed instantly in a paperback book by instabook.net and its affiliates of the InstaBook Worldwide Network and delivered at the customer's homes within a few days.