Better World Books affiliates with Internet Archive

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Better World Books storage facility

Better World Books, the socially conscious online bookseller, is now owned by Better World Libraries – a mission-aligned, not-for-profit organisation that is affiliated with longtime partner, the Internet Archive – it was announced today at Charleston Library Conference.

According to Internet Archive founder Brewster Brewster Kahle, delivering the keynote speech at the opening morning of the conference, the partnership will allow both organisations to pursue their collective mission of making knowledge universally accessible to readers everywhere. The relationship will provide additional resources and newfound synergies backed by a shared enthusiasm for advancing global literacy and dedicated to ensuring that books are accessible to all for generations to come.

Better World Books was founded in 2003, when a group of recent college graduates sold their used textbooks online. Their success eventually led to the creation of a revolutionary business model where used books are collected from libraries, booksellers, colleges, and universities in six countries and then are either resold online, donated or recycled. To date, Better World Books has donated almost 27 million books worldwide, has raised close to $30 million for libraries and literacy, and has saved more than 326 million books from landfills.

Kahle said: ‘The Better World Books origin story is inspiring, and the service they provide to libraries is invaluable. These are our kind of people. We share their values, and we are proud to partner with Better World Books and libraries around the world to promote the goal of universal access to all knowledge.’

The Internet Archive is committed to digitising books and library materials so they can be accessed by users all over the world. Through digitisation, these materials can be used by researchers in large-scale, data-driven computing investigations, preserved in both digital and physical form, and where appropriate, loaned to readers.

Dustin Holland, the newly appointed president and CEO of Better World Books, added: ‘We exist to make a difference in the world, and our customers make that possible. We are honoured to join the Internet Archive family, and our partnership allows us to extract the maximum value out of every book we collect at scale, while continuing to delight readers all over the world.’

In a wide-ranging and passionate presentation, Kahle explained to delegates that, in our current era of disinformation, ready access to trustworthy sources is critical. He said that kake news, sophisticated disinformation campaigns, and propaganda distort the common reality, polarise communities, and threaten open democratic systems. He explained that what citizens, journalists, and policymakers need is a ‘canonical’ source of trusted information. For millions, that trusted source resides in the books and journals housed in libraries, curated and vetted by librarians. Yet today, as we turn inevitably to our screens for information, if a book isn’t digital, it is as if it doesn’t exist.

To address this gap, the Internet Archive is actively working with the world’s great libraries to digitize their collections and to make them available to users via controlled digital lending, a process whereby libraries can loan digital copies of the print books on their shelves. By bringing millions of missing books and academic literature online, libraries can empower journalists, researchers, and Wikipedia editors to cite the best sources directly in their work, grounding readers in the vetted, published record, and extending the investment that libraries have made in their print collections.

Kahle explained: ‘This has to be our day, people need us. We have lots of information that is not true. People are looking for better information … they need librarians, publishers, researchers to be able to understand their world.’