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Why All of Human History Has Been Leading Toward Google

Former Random House editorial director Jason Epstein has an interesting take on Google's place in history, and how the Google Library project could be the next step in the evolution of human knowledge. He waxes a bit much when he suggests that Google's compromise with the Chinese government “calls to mind the expulsion, naked and trembling, of our ancestral parents from prelapsarian Eden,” but overall it's a good piece. One of the most interesting details is the existence of the world's first “ATM for books” — and the fact that it's only a few blocks away form where Open Market is generally written: Meanwhile Google, together with the Gutenberg Project and the Open Content Alliance, and similar programs, has turned a new page in the history of civilizations leaving to us the privilege and the burden of carrying the story further. As part of this effort, On Demand Books, a company in which I have an interest, has installed in the World Bank bookstore in Washington, D.C., an experimental version of a machine such as I have just described, one that receives a digital file and automatically prints and binds on demand a library-quality paperback at low cost, within minutes and with minimal human intervention—an ATM for books. A second experimental machine has been sent to the Alexandrina Library in Egypt and will soon be printing books in Arabic. A newer version will be installed later this year or early next year in the New York Public Library. I can't say I have a desire to purchase any print-on-demand World Bank reports on, say, Haitian water quality, but if they've got anything by David Sedaris, I'm there.