In addition to interesting initiatives such as WikiBooks to publish free content, comes this interesting announcement from the giant Internet Archive:
International Libraries and the Internet Archive collaborate to build Open-Access Text Archives
Today, a number of International libraries have committed to putting their digitized books in open-access archives, starting with one at the Internet Archive. This approach will ensure permanent and public access to our published heritage. Anyone with an Internet connection will have access to these collections and the growing set of tools to make use of them. In this way we are getting closer to the goal of Universal Access to All Knowledge.
By working with libraries from 5 countries, and working to expand this number, we are bringing a broad range of materials to every interested individual. This growing commitment to open access through public archives marks a significant commitment to broad, public, and free access. While still early in its evolution, works in dozens of languages are already stored in the Internet Archive’s Open-Access Text Archive offering a breadth of materials to everyone.
Technology allows us to provide more enhanced access to these materials. First would be to offer similar access to Amazon.com’s trademark Search Inside the Book system for public domain books. Therefore library users would be able to find books that mention relevant words and phrases without having to have the catalog reflect each topic.
Beyond those uses, however, we see a new type of library user– one that uses computers to analyze and compare materials. Imagine being able to analyze the changes to the English language over time. Imagine being able to use the hand translated versions of past books as a way to train automatic translation technologies so we can more effectively translate any book into any language. Imagine being able to analyze the interrelation of papers through their footnotes and links to find new patterns of thought. Each of these projects is already proceeding using the digital holdings of the Internet Archive by researchers. As the Text Archive grows, these researchers will be able to do this over a much broader range of texts as the public domain is added to the Text Archive.
Re-read that last paragraph- an exciting vision indeed- the unbundling of content, enabling the ripping and mixing of content into new forms…
See the Internet Archive Text Archives for a taste so far