How The Internet Archive Makes Rare And Valuable Books Available For Free Online

One of the most amazing things about the internet is the unprecedented connectivity. Worldwide, through text, voice, and video, millions of people can share up-to-date news, jokes, and stories. However, as technology moves forward, there is always the concern of leaving the past — and its knowledge — behind.

One group working to bridge the divide between the new and the old is the Internet Archive, a non profit group focused on “building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.”

This continuing mission means preserving not only old web pages and files through its Wayback Machine, but books! As of March 2021, the Internet Archive has created fully digital backups of more than 28 million books and texts!


Using a hardware and software system of their own design, the Internet Archive is able to preserve history quickly and accessibly. Better yet, the process they follow is non-destructive, leaving the original copy of the book, magazine, or other printed work undamaged.

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In a video posted to their social media, the team walks us through their process for the first time!

“The Scribe,” as the team calls their in-house-developed scanner, makes the process of scanning and archiving written works much easier — but the team of 70 operators has been carefully trained to make each finished product as complete as possible.

Eliza Zhang, the Scribe operator seen in the video above, started work at the Internet Archive in 2009. “My goal is to guarantee zero errors,” she said in a conversation with Internet Archive blogger Wendy Hanamura. “I want to give our readers a satisfying experience.”

Photo: FACEBOOK/Internet Archive

The Internet Archive followed the revealing video of their scanner with another video, explaining how it feeds into their Controlled Digital Lending program with libraries around the world — making difficult-to-find books more easily accessible to those who want them while empowering the existing library infrastructure already in place.

Through the Empowering Libraries program, the Internet Archive hopes to “[enable] libraries to fulfill their age-old role as guardians of cultural posterity.”

Photo: FACEBOOK/Internet Archive

Learn more about the Internet Archive and their Empowering Libraries initiative on their Facebook page!

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