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Internet Archive Puts 1.6M E-Books On OLPC Laptops 106

Posted by timothy
from the and-not-just-one-to-a-customer dept.
waderoush writes "Brewster Kahle of the San Francisco-based Internet Archive announced today that all 1.6 million books scanned and digitized by the Archive will be available for reading on XO laptops built by the Cambridge, MA-based One Laptop Per Child Foundation. The announcement came during a session on electronic books and electronic publishing at the Boston Book Festival. Kahle said the Archive has been collaborating with OLPC for a year to format the e-books for display on the XO laptops, some 750,000 of which are in use by children in developing countries."
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Internet Archive Puts 1.6M E-Books On OLPC Laptops

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  • but if they /really/ cared for the poor children and their eyes, they would get them nooks.
    • and teach them all English...and get them glasses...and make sure they weren't too hungry

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by H3g3m0n (642800)
        Actually giving them the computers might be enough to teach them English. There was the Hole in a Wall project where they dumped a computer on a Indian village and just left it there in a public place. When they came back the children had all learned English.
        • by earlymon (1116185)

          Actually, the common story I'm aware of is that the children used a combination of Hindi words and others from their local dialects to describe things like the cursor, as they'd had no English instruction on computer terms.

          Given that English is one of India's official languages - I find the opposite claim that you can take children with no English, some of whom would be used to a non-Roman alphabet, give them a computer, and collectively, they've spontaneously learned English - incredible, to say the least.

        • by logixoul (1046000)
          Link for those interested: http://www.greenstar.org/butterflies/Hole-in-the-Wall.htm [greenstar.org]
    • by MukiMuki (692124)

      Well remember, the OLPC is using a precursor to the PixelQi screen tech, so the display quality is probably surprisingly comparable to e-Ink (in black/white mode).

  • This must be why the Internet Archive is almost two years behind on indexing archived files instead of the usual 6 months to one year.

  • by ArcadeNut (85398) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:25PM (#29860309) Homepage

    I can read one book a day...

    • by Bob_Who (926234)

      I can read one book a day...

      Dang Dude, that laptop and you are gonna be 48,000 years old when you finally need to upgrade.

  • I still wonder why they didn't build the first XO on the ARM architecture. I only researched via Wikipedia. What I found out was that the processor they used was based on the an old line of AMD (before the Athlon came out) x86 processors. AFAIR AMD x86 processors were inferior to Intel 486 processors.
    So why use such an ancient design instead of a modern day ARM. It would have extended the battery life.

    I think they now changed it to the ARM.

    Is there anyone here on /. that can explain why they used the x86 on

    • Because x86 makes people think "real laptop" rather than "embedded system" is my guess. Plus I'm sure they thought about marketing it in the first world where running Windows is a must. Also I'm not sure if ARM was more powerful than the Geode at the time, either way the logical x86 chip to use (Intel Atom) won't be used due to politics I'm sure so ARM is the only natural CPU.
      • "Normal" people never think "embedded system" only geeks and design engineers do. Normal people think, "What a cool gadget", "It's too expensive/purple/big/small etc.", or exactly what the sales drone has told them (right or wrong).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jhfry (829244)

      You do realize that x86 is a processor instruction set... it has been used by Intel, AMD, Cyrix, and many others. It is the instruction set that was first created by Intel with the 8086 processor and based upon other large instruction sets that proceeded it.

      I suspect that they chose and x86 processor because there wasn't an ARM processor that was powerful enough to meet their needs. Even today, there isn't an ARM processor that can match even low end x86 processors from Intel or AMD. They are however ver

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      If they got infested by MS as people claim, ARM is an excellent low power processor with one issue: It can't run Windows ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The official reason why the ARM wasn't used was that none of the many available models had decent floating point when the OLPC project was started. Unfortunately, the Geode's floating point performance turned out to be less than what was hoped. Unofficially, I imagine that the fact that AMD was one of the four initial sponsors of the OLPC biased the choice towards their product, just like having Red Hat as one of the other sponsors led to the Fedora based software (in contrast to using some already stripped

  • LOC (Score:1, Offtopic)

    How many Library of Congresses will all this data take up???
  • Is Lady Chatterly's Lover in that list?
  • Are these books mostly written in English? And the OLPC is mainly used in developing countries? I think I see a problem here...

    • Re:Er... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:03PM (#29860547)

      Although there's not much that can be done about it due to copyright laws, the fact that they're restricted to public-domain books likely skews it even more: there's a lot of 20th-century and 21st-century African literature, for example, but much less from pre-1923.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Afforess (1310263)
        Not necessarily. Many African countries were not members of or don't subscribe to the Berne Convention [wikipedia.org] , so many copyrights would be Public Domain there. The few countries that do have some copyright laws lack the manpower, or political willpower to actually enforce them. A complete list of Countries Copyright laws and standards is here [wipo.int].
        • by Trepidity (597)

          True, but in this case they would have to be public-domain in the United States to be included, since it's a set of books being compiled by archive.org and the OLPC project, both of which have to respect US copyright law.

    • by bschorr (1316501)
      Actually it's probably good that the kids learn English and it's a fair bet that a number of them speak at least a little English already.

      Americans are perhaps the most mono-lingual nation in the world. Whenever I travel abroad I'm taken aback at how easily folks in other parts of the world speak multiple languages.

      In fact there are more English-speakers in China than there are in the U.S. and Canada combined. Why? Because their kids study Chinese AND English - many of them take extra classes after regul
      • when Chinese is the dominant language of the Internet and the U.S. is struggling to retain our role as the dominant economic and sociopolitical power on the planet.

        If Chinese is going to become more dominant, it'll probably be because China will already have replaced the US as the dominant economic and sociopolitical power...

    • by Threni (635302)

      They could always use the great classic books written in Sudanese, Yemeni and Somalian, like.... well, you know, all those books.

      Or they could learn English, like they do practically everywhere nowadays.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by grcumb (781340)

      Are these books mostly written in English? And the OLPC is mainly used in developing countries? I think I see a problem here...

      In the part of the world I live in (Pacific Islands), even the least educated people speak 3 or more languages as a matter of course. Some speak 5 or 6 fluently. Visitors (and many long-term residents) are regularly the subject of ridicule because they can't learn to say more than 'hello' and 'thank you', even after months or years here.

      My educated colleagues and friends have a remarkable ability to pick up language and - more importantly - to grasp the nuance of even the most abstruse language.

      Geography pl

  • What's the story? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by earlymon (1116185) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:09PM (#29860595) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    Kahle says the Internet Archive books will be available through the reading "activity" on the XO Laptop. (Software on the laptop is organized into groups called activities pertaining to different types of creative and educational projects.) In an upcoming version of the XO's basic software, the reading activity will also allow students to browse books from a variety of providers, Kahle says, including libraries and commercial publishers.

    He drew an explicit contrast between these approach and the more closed and controlled e-book sales models being forwarded by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other distributors. But getting new, copyrighted books onto platforms that don't provide strict digital rights management protections is still a tricky business proposition--so for now, the book sharing arrangement between the Archive and OLPC is restricted to free, public-domain books.

    While I'm all for this project - tell me again HOW those books are going to get to an OLPC-using kid's hands?

    As other posters have pointed out - there's the issue of indexing this stuff properly.

    And there's still distribution to think about.

    http://idle.slashdot.org/story/09/09/10/0318203/Pigeon-Turns-Out-To-Be-Faster-Than-S-African-Net [slashdot.org]

    • Hey, I bet with you, that my car, full of hard disks, is also faster than an ISP.

      That pigeon thing is a straw-man. There are better ways to say that there are problems. Like mentioning, I don't know, perhaps...the actual average transfer rate!! (Including outages.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by swillden (191260)

      tell me again HOW those books are going to get to an OLPC-using kid's hands?

      The Internet.

      The standard OLPC deployment model includes a school computer with an Internet connection of some sort. If necessary, via satellite. Not a fast connection, necessarily, but even at 256 kbps you can download a lot of books. Especially when downloading 24x7.

      • by earlymon (1116185)

        Maybe - the use case also expected is that the teacher creates a subnet and the kids net together using non-traditional agent / peer contacts, independent of the internet as well.

        • by swillden (191260)
          Absolutely. But that doesn't help the kids get access to books that haven't already been delivered somehow. The most likely delivery technology is the Internet connection -- though I suppose the project could also ship thumb drive or two containing the whole collection.
          • by earlymon (1116185)

            Well, they could ship thumb drives - I hope they do, then. Otherwise, this is of limited value.

            The OLPC discussions that were rife in /. in days past - before its falling out of favor - had LOTS of comments from people wanting to use these in remote areas.

            For those cases, the internet just doesn't sound like the option that everyone is making it out to be.

            • by swillden (191260)
              Being in a remote area doesn't necessarily mean no Internet -- it just means slow Internet. The standard OLPC deployment configuration includes an Internet connection of some sort to the school machine. If no other option is available they get it via satellite. Relatively low bandwidth (256 kbps) and crazy high latency (ping times > 1.5 s), but it would work fine for downloading books.
    • by lordlod (458156)

      While I'm all for this project - tell me again HOW those books are going to get to an OLPC-using kid's hands?

      As other posters have pointed out - there's the issue of indexing this stuff properly.

      And there's still distribution to think about.

      The standard OPLC deployment includes a school server.

      The model used for reference material such as Wikipedia, text books or this is to put the material on the school server. All the XOs in the area have fast wireless access and the school server has the hard drive space to store and serve all the data.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      While I'm all for this project - tell me again HOW those books are going to get to an OLPC-using kid's hands?

      Internet, I'd guess.

      As other posters have pointed out - there's the issue of indexing this stuff properly.

      Good point. I suspect that putting them on a website and letting Google work its magic might address some - but definitely not all - of the problem. After all, the really interesting literature is often the stuff you didn't know about in the first place.

      And there's still distribution to think abo

      • by walshy007 (906710)

        I'm on the board of one project that's offering Internet access over HF radio

        Dude.. I've done that before also, are you bouncing it off the ionosphere to get it there? what kind of modulation techniques are you using? phase shift keying or something else.? with the severe limitations you encounter with HF it's hard to get reliable connections over like 2400 baud. Even with the tiny download sizes of things in plaintext (and compression) 100kb files would still take ages.

  • Are the books in English? Since the OLPC is being shipped to many countries where English is not the primary language, if they don't offer them in the local language, I doubt that this will be usefull. BTW, I'm from Uruguay, where all the students from public schools were given an XO. This is called Plan Ceibal.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@h a c k i sh.org> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:41PM (#29860777)

      Many are, though a good deal aren't. I don't see a way to browse their texts archive [archive.org] by language (am I missing something?), but you can search by specific language in the advanced search. I can't get them to add up to anything near 1.6 million, so presumably many aren't language-tagged.

      But some rough figures:

      • 354,000 - English
      • 101,000 - French
      • 99,000 - German
      • 22,000 - Italian
      • 17,000 - Spanish
      • 14,000 - Latin
      • 7,000 - Russian
      • 6,000 - Dutch
      • 4,000 - Portuguese
      • 2,000 - Polish
      • 2,000 - Arabic
      • 800 - Urdu
        400 - Swahili
      • 200 - Malay
      • 200 - Turkish
      • 200 - Tamil

      Definitely a skewed distribution, but e.g. 17,000 texts in Spanish is quite a few, certainly more than most children can read!

    • by Acer500 (846698)

      Are the books in English? Since the OLPC is being shipped to many countries where English is not the primary language, if they don't offer them in the local language, I doubt that this will be usefull. BTW, I'm from Uruguay, where all the students from public schools were given an XO. This is called Plan Ceibal.

      I was going to ask the same thing (I'm from Uruguay too :) ).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:17PM (#29860637)

    I cannot help but mention the Project Gutenberg [http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page] which provide e-books for free. This is achieved by the use of volunteers who may proofread a single page (or more) a day. Everyone one can participate. There are opportunities at all levels of difficulty for proof-reading, in many languages and on many topics.

    • by eulernet (1132389) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @10:46PM (#29861751)

      In fact, the proofread is done by the Distributed Proofreaders: http://www.pgdp.net/c/ [pgdp.net]

      BTW, I'd like to know what is done from all the human OCR from the Recaptcha project: http://recaptcha.net/ [recaptcha.net]

      Any link to the digitized books ?

      • by Myuu (529245)

        From my understanding recaptcha's source material is the NYT archives.

    • And Project Gutenberg's e-books treat the reader with respect: no DRM, no special format hassles, wide availability, sharing-friendly (no need to fear what happens on copying, loaning, or selling your copy at a yard sale), easy to annotate, readable on every device, and available gratis (but worth money).

      Many thanks to Project Gutenberg for all their hard work. Project Gutenberg sets a great example the public should keep in mind when commercial outfits offer significantly less for considerable forfeiture

    • Just as an experiment I thought I'd see what they had for science fiction. I looked for Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Brunner and some others - all authors with many books that should be long out of copyright but surprisingly found nothing there.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Just as an experiment I thought I'd see what they had for science fiction. I looked for Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Brunner and some others - all authors with many books that should be long out of copyright but surprisingly found nothing there.

        If you know of any works of theirs that are definitely out of copyright, then submit them. As for science fiction, they have a whole bunch by famous authors.

        Andre Norton
        Poul Anderson
        Robert Arthur
        James Blish
        Ben Bova
        Marian Zimmer Bradley
        John Campbell
        Lester Del Rey
        Philip K. Dick
        Harold Goodwin
        Harry Harrison
        H. Beam Piper
        Frederik Pohl
        James H. Schmitz
        Robert Silverberg
        Clifford Simak
        E.E. "Doc" Smith
        Jules Verne
        Kurt Vonnegut
        H.G. Wells

        All these and more at Project Gutenberg

        http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Science_Fiction_

  • Yeah, that's cool you can say "it has 1,600,000 books" but how are they categorized? Is the interface for selecting and searching for books intuitive? If the laptops are targeted to a younger audience are the selected books at an appropriate reading level for the age? I mean, this is really only useful if they can create a really, really, good front end.

  • 1.6M books (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rawket.scientist (812855) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @08:07PM (#29860931)
    And how many of these books are in Spanish? Or French, or Farsi, or what have you? And with pictures?

    I used to work in a small, poor town in the developing world. My community had a library with about 10 linear feet of shelving. All the books were in Spanish, but . . .

    None of them had pictures.
    The "local interest" titles were these impenetrable desk-breakers of 19th century poetry by some aristocrat from the big city.
    There were only two or three fiction titles. Dante's Inferno counts, right?

    I never once saw a child pick a book off that shelf, not even after an hour's wait while Mom ran an errand. There was nothing there that would appeal to a beginning reader. Hell, given the historical literacy handicaps in the region, those titles would have defeated most of the adults I knew.

    If you want to encourage literacy (in the developing world or elsewhere) you've got to start small. Pictures. Rhymes and silly sounds. It takes years to get most kids up to chapter book readiness. Canterbury Tales ain't where you start!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      * 354,000 - English * 101,000 - French * 99,000 - German * 22,000 - Italian * 17,000 - Spanish * 14,000 - Latin * 7,000 - Russian * 6,000 - Dutch * 4,000 - Portuguese * 2,000 - Polish * 2,000 - Arabic * 800 - Urdu 400 - Swahili * 200 - Malay * 200 - Turkish * 200 - Tamil from another poster, i dont know about the pictures though.
    • May I ask what you're doing what to remedy this? It seems to me that working to fix this is more productive than only complaining about it. Are there some technical people working on a specification so people can enjoy free books with pictures in free formats?

      If you want to encourage literacy (in the developing world or elsewhere) you've got to start small.

      I sense you mean well, but I suggest you'd do better to convince people to help you improve the state of e-books by asking for assistance instead of te

      • Ha, I know what you mean about the pictures. The movie's never quite as good as the book, and the illustrator never quite captures it, does she? And TV is better with the subtitles on. But that's how I feel now, as an adult with better reading comprehension than listening comprehension.

        Generalizing here, but poor kids in the developing world are not read to on their mothers' laps. Nor are they sprawled on the carpet with the Sunday comics, or even watching Sesame Street. We in the developed world really
    • by mspohr (589790)
      Is this what you have in mind?

      http://www.crumbproducts.com/comics.html [crumbproducts.com]

      Comic book version of Genesis. It has great reviews. It's being translated into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Finnish, Dutch

    • by fermion (181285)
      I know that the books are in various languages. The top list has few in english. The list also seems to be at many different levels of reading.

      As far as I pictures, this is not such a big issue. Glossy pictures are important in the third world especially now, because that is what kids and parents expect. They expect 4 color prints on paper. They expect Snow White to be the disney drawing. They expect binding to be neat and pages to cut. Furthermore the opportunity costs of parents creating such boo

  • I tought in collecting around as much children books i could for that same target, there is a lot of books that enjoyed as child that are public domain by now and would be great to be easily available for all those children, but wasnt so trivial to find them in spanish.

    Probably the initial target should be focus (o at least, discriminate or categorize) on books for children, and preferably in spanish (as probably is the language of the countries where has been more widely deployed so far, they are pointing
  • How are these 1.6M books to be distributed - via Internet downloads? And the language issue raised by others is a concern as well (the 1.6M books are in a variety of languages) limiting the number of books that are useful in a given country/region... While there are many "classics" available in the public domain, how useful/timely are those fiction books to people (literally) starving for agriculture, technology, and legal resources? I'm glad these books are available to XO users, how about others? Make the
  • Assuming that many of the the books are in English, the OLCP should have an app which teaches English; one which assumes no prior knowledge.

  • If there really is 1 Laptop per child. AND there is at least 1 child from all 6809 known spoken languages (http://www.lsadc.org/info/pdf_files/howmany.pdf) That's just 2350 books. Gotta read the fine print.

  • Nay-Sayers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by howlingmadhowie (943150) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @04:07AM (#29862941)
    Dear me, there are a lot of nay-sayers posting here. I wonder why? I can't inherently see something terrible about providing a large number of books for the world's poorest, yet the comments here would have me believe that it is hopeless, and everybody has an anecdote about why there's no point in even trying.

    so why are the astroturfers out en force for this story?

    anyway, i say good on the olpc project for trying to bring knowledge to the poor, the underprivileged, the down-trodden, the economically abused and the politically silenced. i still hope that we will someday look back on this project and think that it was a major stepping stone in our journey towards human rights, education and dignity for all.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Looks like you've been living in a fucking cave. OLPC is a Micro$oft product after Negroponte caved in. Just another vehicle to secure their product lock-in also in the very poorest of countries where Free Software would have the biggest impact. So any OLPC news you hear these days should make you very sad.

      The greed! The arrogance! The pure evil!

  • Misleading headline. Even after character recognition and heavy compression, 1.6 million books are going to come out at more than 200k per book. That's .2 million MB, or 200 GB. On a normal laptop with a rotating 2.5" drive, that'd be infeasible.

    The OLPC has no rotating drives [laptop.org], but rather a 1GB solid-state chip. (Which makes sense, reducing temperature, energy usage as well as shock sensitivity.)

    So they probably mean they'll be bundling some software for reading it online.

  • "Finally, an use for all those unsold laptops"?

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