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'A potential readership of billions'

26 March 2007

'For the Bodleian, however - an early Google signatory - such efforts mark the liberation of millions of relatively obscure and out-of-copyright books from the depths of its vast stacks. Our involvement contributes to both the betterment of society and the legacy of our founder, Elizabethan diplomat Sir Thomas Bodley, who sought a repository of information not simply for the University of Oxford, but for the wider world. The internet has provided the opportunity to reinterpret Bodley's vision of the library's universal value by adding a potential readership of billions to the 40,000 or so individuals who are able to physically visit its premises each year...

Public domain books belong where the worldwide public can use them; and that is where the Bodleian wants them to be seen. Like it or not, the internet is where the public looks first for information. To resist that inexorable tide of progress is, to paraphrase Cervantes, tilting at windmills.'

Reg Carr, Librarian Emeritus at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, in the Bookseller