Internet Archive, the American digital library, opened the National Emergency Library, a digital collection of more than 1.4 million copyrighted e-books on Tuesday. These books are available for free for people all across the world until at least until June 30. The Internet Archive said that it took this step to address the unprecedented global need for access to research materials. It has also suspended the waitlist for the books and created the emergency library. Users can borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist. This will ensure that students have access to assigned readings materials.
In the past, the Internet Archive’s Open Library allowed people to “borrow” digital copies of the books it held in storage, that could be taken for a limited amount of time. These books are now being made freely available for students and researchers around the world.
The National Emergency Library has been opened by the Internet Archive at a time when billions of people in the world are stuck indoors to keep COVID-19 pandemic at bay. These people cannot physically access a library during the shutdown. The launch of this digital library will greatly students and researchers who can access materials while remaining safe in their homes. Internet Archive announced that the books will be available until June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.
“This library brings together all the books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College, and much of Trent University’s collections, along with over a million other books donated from other libraries to readers worldwide that are locked out of their libraries,” according to Internet Archive.
“This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips,” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive.
However, some have also raised questions of whether this move by the Internet Archive is a violation of copyright. Books available through the National Emergency Library don’t just include academic tomes, but best sellers too.
The Author’s Guild, an industry body thar had called the Internet Archive a “violation of copyright” some years ago, noted in a blog post, “Internet Archive has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author. We are shocked that the Internet Archive would use the COVID-19 epidemic as an excuse to push copyright law further out to the edges, and in doing so, harm authors, many of whom are already struggling.”
Apart from the copyrighted books in the National Library, Internet Archive also offers free access to 2.5 million downloadable public domain books. It was founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996.
The Internet Archive said that authors and publishers are going to be impacted by this global pandemic and urged people to buy the books if they can. “We encourage all readers who are in a position to buy books to do so, ideally while also supporting your local bookstore. If they don’t have the book you need, then Amazon or Better World Books may have copies in print or digital formats,” it said.