Why Don’t You Read It Online?

I was searching the Library of Congress catalogue online one night, tracking down a seventy-year-old book about politics and markets, when my son came in to watch me. He was about eight years old at the time but already a child of the internet age. He asked what I was doing and I explained that I was printing out the details of the book so I could try to find it in my own university library. “Why don’t you read it online?” he said, reaching over my shoulder and double-clicking on the title, frowning when that merely led to another information page: “How do you get to read the actual book?” I smiled at the assumption that all the works of literature were not merely in the Library of Congress, but actually on the Net: availab,e to anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world–so that you could not merely search for, but also read or print, some large slice of of the Library’s holdings. Imagine what that would be like.

– James Boyle, The Public Domain, 10.

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