How the Internet Archive Has Digitized More than 250,000 78 R.P.M. Records: See the Painstaking Process Up-Close

In the his­to­ry of record­ed music, no medi­um has demon­strat­ed quite the stay­ing pow­er of the phono­graph record. Hear­ing those words, most of us envi­sion a twelve-inch disc designed to play at 33 13 rev­o­lu­tions per minute, the kind still man­u­fac­tured today. But like every oth­er form of tech­nol­o­gy, that famil­iar vinyl LP did­n’t appear ex nihi­lo: on its intro­duc­tion in 1948, it was the lat­est in a series of phono­graph records of dif­fer­ent sizes and speeds. The first dom­i­nant record for­mat spun at 78 r.p.m., a speed stan­dard­ized in the mid-1920s, though the discs them­selves (made of rub­ber, shel­lac, or oth­er pre-vinyl mate­ri­als) had been in pro­duc­tion since the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry and remained in pro­duc­tion until the 1950s.

The half-cen­tu­ry of the “78” adds up to quite a lot of music, most of which has long been inac­ces­si­ble to non-anti­quar­i­ans. Enter the his­tor­i­cal­ly mind­ed tech­nol­o­gists of the Inter­net Archive, who since 2016 have been work­ing with media preser­va­tion com­pa­ny George Blood LP to dig­i­tize, pre­serve, and make avail­able, as of this writ­ing, more than 250,000 such records.

The process involves much more than play­ing them all into a com­put­er, due not least to the toll the past cen­tu­ry or so has tak­en on the discs’ sur­faces. “Each record is cleaned on a machine that sprays dis­tilled water onto its sur­face,” writes The Verge’s Kait Sanchez. “A lit­tle vac­u­um arm then sucks up the water, along with what­ev­er dirt and nas­ti­ness has built up in the record’s grooves.”

“The discs are then pho­tographed, and the pho­tos are ref­er­enced to pull info from the discs’ labels and add it to the archive’s data­base by hand.” There fol­lows the actu­al dig­i­ti­za­tion, which records each disc with four styli at once: since 78s nev­er had stan­dard­ized groove sizes, “record­ings tak­en with var­i­ous sty­lus tips will each sound slight­ly dif­fer­ent,” but for any record in the George Blood Col­lec­tion the lis­ten­er can choose which of the four they’d pre­fer to lis­ten through. You can see each step of the process in the video at the top of the post, part of a Twit­ter thread recent­ly post­ed by the Inter­net Archive. There the Archive notes that, “after scan­ning 250,000 sides, we’ve found 80% of these 78s were pro­duced by the ‘Big Five’ labels” — Colum­bia, RCA Vic­tor, Dec­ca, Capi­tol and Mer­cury — “but along the way, we’ve uncov­ered 1700 oth­er music labels and some pret­ty beau­ti­ful pic­ture discs.”

You can look at — and more to the point, lis­ten to — every­thing in the the George Blood Col­lec­tion here, which is a sub­set of the Inter­net Archive’s larg­er col­lec­tion of dig­i­tized 78 records as well as the cylin­ders that 78s whol­ly dis­placed as a con­sumer for­mat. As the Inter­net Archive’s Twit­ter thread reminds us, “from 1898–1950, this was THE way music was record­ed & shared.” In oth­er words, if your par­ents were lis­ten­ing to music in that peri­od — or maybe your grand­par­ents, great-grand­par­ents, or great-great grand­par­ents — 78s were their MP3s, their Spo­ti­fy, their Youtube. We descend as lis­ten­ers from enthu­si­as­tic buy­ers of 78s, and now, thanks to the Inter­net Archive and its col­lab­o­ra­tors, we can enjoy a large and ever-increas­ing pro­por­tion of their entire world of record­ed music for free.

via The Verge

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mas­sive Archive of 78RPM Records Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online: Stream 78,000 Ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry Records from Around the World

25,000+ 78RPM Records Now Pro­fes­sion­al­ly Dig­i­tized & Stream­ing Online: A Trea­sure Trove of Ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry Music

The Inter­net Archive Is Dig­i­tiz­ing & Pre­serv­ing Over 100,000 Vinyl Records: Hear 750 Full Albums Now

The Boston Pub­lic Library Will Dig­i­tize & Put Online 200,000+ Vin­tage Records

The Ground­break­ing Art of Alex Stein­weiss, Father of Record Cov­er Design

How the Inter­net Archive Dig­i­tizes 3,500 Books a Day–the Hard Way, One Page at a Time

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The History of American Newspapers Has Been Digitized: Explore 114 Years of Editor & Publisher, “the Bible of the Newspaper Industry”

If you look into the his­to­ry of the Amer­i­can news­pa­per, you can’t get too deep before your inevitable encounter with Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er. Brand­ed as “the bible of the news­pa­per indus­try,” the trade mag­a­zine has for 120 years cov­ered its sub­ject from every pos­si­ble angle. Though news­pa­pers had already been pub­lished in the Unit­ed States for near­ly 200 years before the mag­a­zine’s found­ing, its run has been coeval with an espe­cial­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, even dra­mat­ic peri­od in their his­to­ry. It was in the 20th cen­tu­ry that Amer­i­can news­pa­pers con­sol­i­dat­ed into the pil­lars of what looked, for a time, like a mighty “fourth estate”; in this cen­tu­ry, they’ve plunged into what Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er’s own­er Mike Blind­er terms “such a cri­sis.”

Still, since pur­chas­ing the mag­a­zine last year, writes Inter­net Archive Col­lec­tions Man­ag­er Mari­na Lewis, “Blind­er and his wife, Robin, have been able to turn the oper­a­tion around, dou­bling its rev­enues and tripling its audi­ence.” He also gave the Inter­net Archive per­mis­sion to upload and make avail­able 114 years of Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er issues online for free.

“Going beyond the Inter­net Archive’s tra­di­tion­al lend­ing sys­tem ensures it can be indexed by search engines and made max­i­mal­ly use­ful to read­ers and researchers,” writes Lewis. “The abil­i­ty to research these archived issues has been tru­ly excit­ing, espe­cial­ly for those look­ing up his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, many with a per­son­al or fam­i­ly con­nec­tion.”

As the Nie­man Jour­nal­ism Lab’s Joshua Ben­don remem­bers itEdi­tor & Pub­lish­er was once “the best (and often only) place to find out about job open­ings at news­pa­pers.”  With more than a cen­tu­ry of its back issues freely avail­able at the Inter­net Archive, “if you’re at all inter­est­ed in the 20th-cen­tu­ry his­to­ry of the Amer­i­can news­pa­per busi­ness, you now have access to a robust new resource.” In the archive he finds doc­u­men­ta­tion of “some of the century’s most inter­est­ing moments,” at least as far as that busi­ness is con­cerned: The New York­er’s 1946 pub­li­ca­tion of John Hersey’s “Hiroshi­ma,” which it sub­se­quent­ly offered to con­ven­tion­al news­pa­pers (“The piece runs about 30,000 words and no cut­ting or con­dens­ing is to be per­mit­ted”); the 1965 hir­ing of Ben Bradlee by The Wash­ing­ton Post; the 1971 debut of Doones­bury in nation­al news­pa­pers.

Not all of these reflect well on the U.S. news­pa­per indus­try. Ben­ton high­lights the 1981 expo­sure of “Jim­my’s World,” a Pulitzer-win­ning Post sto­ry about an eight-year-old hero­in addict, as a fab­ri­ca­tion — or a piece of “fake news,” as we might say today. That arti­cle also quotes a Boston Globe edi­tor as say­ing “the pub­lic faith in the press is min­i­mal at the moment,” a sen­ti­ment not unheard these 40 years lat­er. The mag­a­zine was also quick to observe the emer­gence of oth­er forms of media (such as a 1925 test of French inven­tor Édouard Belin’s exper­i­men­tal “tele­vi­sion”) that would lat­er force change upon the news­pa­per indus­try’s very nature. And if the cur­rent cri­sis is, as some argue, not destroy­ing the fourth estate but return­ing it to its roots, there could be few bet­ter paths back to an under­stand­ing of those roots than through the Edi­tor & Pub­lish­er archive.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Techie Work­ing at Home Cre­ates Big­ger Archive of His­tor­i­cal News­pa­pers (37 Mil­lion Pages) Than the Library of Con­gress

Enter “The Mag­a­zine Rack,” the Inter­net Archive’s Col­lec­tion of 34,000 Dig­i­tized Mag­a­zines

The End of an Era: A Short Film About The Last Day of Hot Met­al Type­set­ting at The New York Times (1978)

A Big Dig­i­tal Archive of Inde­pen­dent & Alter­na­tive Pub­li­ca­tions: Browse/Download Rad­i­cal Peri­od­i­cals Print­ed from 1951 to 2016

From the Annals of Opti­mism: The News­pa­per Indus­try in 1981 Imag­ines its Dig­i­tal Future

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Internet Archive Now Digitizing 1,000,000+ Objects from a Massive Cinema History Library

Major motion pic­tures need the work of writ­ers, direc­tors, actors, cin­e­matog­ra­phers, and a slew of oth­er pro­fes­sion­als besides. That group also includes researchers, whose role has until recent­ly gone prac­ti­cal­ly uncel­e­brat­ed out­side the indus­try. In 2015, film­mak­er Daniel Raim brought the work of the film researcher to light with Harold and Lil­lian: A Hol­ly­wood Love Sto­ry, about pro­duc­tion design­er Harold Michel­son and his researcher wife Lil­lian. “In Raim’s doc­u­men­tary, she talks about work­ing on Fid­dler on the Roof and the film­mak­ers need­ed to know what a Jew­ish wom­an’s under­gar­ments looked like in the 1890s,” writes The Hol­ly­wood Reporter’s Emi­ly Hilton. How could she find such obscure infor­ma­tion?

“Michel­son sat on a bench at Fair­fax and Bev­er­ly near a Jew­ish deli and spoke to women who were about the right age to have been alive in that era.” One of these women “ran home and grabbed a sewing pat­tern for her to ref­er­ence. This research inspired the out­fits that Τevye’s daugh­ters wear in the num­ber: knee length bloomers with scal­loped edges.”

As yet, this pat­tern has­n’t appeared in the Michel­son Cin­e­ma Research Library, now host­ed online at the Inter­net Archive. But it may yet, as the project of dig­i­ti­za­tion and upload­ing has hard­ly begun: it was just last year that the nona­ge­nar­i­an Lil­lian Michel­son donat­ed to the Archive her for­mi­da­ble col­lec­tion of research mate­ri­als, amassed over her long career.

“After near­ly six decades serv­ing film­mak­ers first at Samuel Gold­wyn, then the Amer­i­can Film Insti­tute, Zoetrope Stu­dio, Para­mount and Dream­Works,” writes the Los Ange­les Times’ Mary McNa­ma­ra, “the library filled 1,594 box­es: tens of thou­sands of books, pho­tographs, mag­a­zines and a panoply of oth­er visu­al resources. All of this had been sit­ting for five years in a stor­age facil­i­ty, paid for by friends who could not bear to see it all destroyed.” Now that the dig­i­tal archival process is under­way, you can browse the first 1,300 or so entries at the Inter­net Archive, which allows users to vir­tu­al­ly check out the Michel­son Cin­e­ma Research Library’s books on sub­jects rang­ing from the­atri­cal cos­tumes and vin­tage cin­e­ma lob­by cards to places like Japan and Paris to less expect­ed top­ics like the Amaz­ing Kre­skin and the exter­nals of the Catholic Church.

But then, a Hol­ly­wood researcher must be pre­pared to learn about any­thing, and by all accounts Lil­lian Michel­son was per­haps the great­est of them all. In addi­tion to its com­pre­hen­sive­ness, her library became a hang­out of choice for a vari­ety of stu­dio pro­fes­sion­als and celebri­ties includ­ing Tom Waits. (“I wouldn’t be sur­prised if that’s how he found some time to unwind,” says Raim, “just drink­ing tea there.”) The Inter­net Archive describes her col­lec­tion as con­sist­ing of “5,000 books, 30,000 pho­tographs, and more than 1,000,000 clip­pings, scrap­books and ephemera,” more of which will come online as time goes by. Even­tu­al­ly the site will con­tain all the mate­ri­als from which Michel­son drew vital knowl­edge for film­mak­ers like Roman Polan­s­ki, Alfred Hitch­cock, and Stan­ley Kubrick. And if her research mate­ri­als sat­is­fied those three, they’re more than good enough for us.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

10,000 Clas­sic Movie Posters Get­ting Dig­i­tized & Put Online by the Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter at UT-Austin: Free to Browse & Down­load

40,000 Film Posters in a Won­der­ful­ly Eclec­tic Archive: Ital­ian Tarkovsky Posters, Japan­ese Orson Welles, Czech Woody Allen & Much More

Down­load 6600 Free Films from The Prelinger Archives and Use Them How­ev­er You Like

Good Movies as Old Books: 100 Films Reimag­ined as Vin­tage Book Cov­ers

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Internet Archive is Saving Classic Flash Animations & Games from Extinction: Explore Them Online

Flash is final­ly dead, and the world… does not mourn. Because the announce­ment of its end actu­al­ly came three years ago, “like a guil­lo­tine in a crowd­ed town square,” writes Rhett Jones at Giz­mo­do. It was a slow exe­cu­tion, but it was just. So use­ful in Web 1.0 days for mak­ing ani­ma­tions, games, and seri­ous pre­sen­ta­tions, Flash had become a vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, a viral car­ri­er that couldn’t be patched fast enough to keep the hack­ers out. “Adobe’s Flash died many deaths, but we can tru­ly throw some dirt on its grave and say our final good­byes because it’s get­ting the preser­va­tion treat­ment.” Like the ani­mat­ed GIF, Flash ani­ma­tions have their own online library.

All those love­ly Flash memes—the danc­ing bad­gers and the snake, peanut but­ter and jel­ly time—will be saved for per­plexed future gen­er­a­tions, who will use them to deci­pher the runes of ear­ly 2000’s inter­net-speak. How­ev­er sil­ly they may seem now, there’s no deny­ing that these arti­facts were once cen­tral con­stituents of pop cul­ture.

Flash was much more than a dis­trac­tion or frus­trat­ing brows­er crash­er. It pro­vid­ed a “gate­way,” Jason Scott writes at the Inter­net Archive blog, “for many young cre­ators to fash­ion near-pro­fes­sion­al-lev­el games and ani­ma­tion, giv­ing them the first steps to a lat­er career.” (Even if it was a career mak­ing “advergames.”)

A sin­gle per­son work­ing in their home could hack togeth­er a con­vinc­ing pro­gram, upload it to a huge clear­ing­house like New­grounds, and get feed­back on their work. Some cre­ators even made entire series of games, each improv­ing on the last, until they became full pro­fes­sion­al releas­es on con­soles and PCs.

Always true to its pur­pose, the Inter­net Archive has devised a way to store and play Flash ani­ma­tions using emu­la­tors cre­at­ed by Ruf­fle and the Blue­Max­i­ma Flash­point Project, who have already archived tens of thou­sands of Flash games. All those adorable Home­s­tar Run­ner car­toons? Saved from extinc­tion, which would have been their fate, since “with­out a Flash play­er, flash ani­ma­tions don’t work.” This may seem obvi­ous, but it bears some expla­na­tion. Where image, sound, and video files can be con­vert­ed to oth­er for­mats to make them acces­si­ble to mod­ern play­ers, Flash ani­ma­tions can only exist in a world with Flash. They are like Edison’s wax cylin­ders, with­out the charm­ing three-dimen­sions.

Scott goes into more depth on the rise and fall of Flash, a his­to­ry that begins in 1993 with Flash’s pre­de­ces­sor, SmartS­ketch, which became Future­Wave, which became Flash when it was pur­chased by Macro­me­dia, then by Adobe. By 2005, it start­ed to become unsta­ble, and could­n’t evolve along with new pro­to­cols. HTML5 arrived in 2014 to issue the “final death-blow,” kind of.… Will Flash be missed? It’s doubt­ful. But “like any con­tain­er, Flash itself is not as much of a loss as all the art and cre­ativ­i­ty it held.” The Archive cur­rent­ly hosts over 1,500 Flash ani­ma­tions from those turn-of-the-mil­len­ni­um inter­net days, and there are many more to come. Enter the Archive’s Flash col­lec­tion here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The U.S. Nation­al Archives Launch­es an Ani­mat­ed GIF Archive: See Whit­man, Twain, Hem­ing­way & Oth­ers in Motion

36,000 Flash Games Have Been Archived and Saved Before Flash Goes Extinct: Play Them Offline

What the Entire Inter­net Looked Like in 1973: An Old Map Gets Found in a Pile of Research Papers

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Internet Archive Will Digitize & Preserve Millions of Academic Articles with Its New Database, “Internet Archive Scholar”

Open access pub­lish­ing has, indeed, made aca­d­e­m­ic research more acces­si­ble, but in “the move from phys­i­cal aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nals to dig­i­tal­ly-acces­si­ble papers,” Saman­tha Cole writes at Vice, it has also become “more pre­car­i­ous to pre­serve…. If an insti­tu­tion stops pay­ing for web host­ing or changes servers, the research with­in could dis­ap­pear.” At least a cou­ple hun­dred open access jour­nals van­ished in this way between 2000 and 2019, a new study pub­lished on arx­iv found. Anoth­er 900 jour­nals are in dan­ger of meet­ing the same fate.

The jour­nals in per­il include schol­ar­ship in the human­i­ties and sci­ences, though many pub­li­ca­tions may only be of inter­est to his­to­ri­ans, giv­en the speed at which sci­en­tif­ic research tends to move. In any case, “there shouldn’t real­ly be any decay or loss in sci­en­tif­ic pub­li­ca­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly those that have been open on the web,” says study co-author Mikael Laasko, infor­ma­tion sci­en­tist at the Han­ken School of Eco­nom­ics in Helsin­ki. Yet, in dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing, there are no print­ed copies in uni­ver­si­ty libraries, cat­a­logued and main­tained by librar­i­ans.

To fill the need, the Inter­net Archive has cre­at­ed its own schol­ar­ly search plat­form, a “full­text search index” that includes “over 25 mil­lion research arti­cles and oth­er schol­ar­ly doc­u­ments” pre­served on its servers. These col­lec­tions span dig­i­tized and orig­i­nal dig­i­tal arti­cles pub­lished from the 18th cen­tu­ry to “the lat­est Open Access con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings and pre-prints crawled from the World Wide Web.” Con­tent in this search index comes in one of three forms:

  • pub­lic web con­tent in the Way­back Machine web archives (, either iden­ti­fied from his­toric col­lect­ing, crawled specif­i­cal­ly to ensure long-term access to schol­ar­ly mate­ri­als, or crawled at the direc­tion of Archive-It part­ners
  • dig­i­tized print mate­r­i­al from paper and micro­form col­lec­tions pur­chased and scanned by Inter­net Archive or its part­ners
  • gen­er­al mate­ri­als on the col­lec­tions, includ­ing con­tent from part­ner orga­ni­za­tions, uploads from the gen­er­al pub­lic, and mir­rors of oth­er projects

The project is still in “alpha” and “has sev­er­al bugs,” the site cau­tions, but it could, when it’s ful­ly up and run­ning, become part of a much-need­ed rev­o­lu­tion in aca­d­e­m­ic research—that is if the major aca­d­e­m­ic pub­lish­ers don’t find some legal pre­text to shut it down.

Aca­d­e­m­ic pub­lish­ing boasts one of the most rapa­cious legal busi­ness mod­els on the glob­al mar­ket, and one of the most exploita­tive: a dou­ble stan­dard in which schol­ars freely pub­lish and review research for the pub­lic ben­e­fit (osten­si­bly) and very often on the pub­lic dime; while pri­vate inter­me­di­aries rake in astro­nom­i­cal sums for them­selves with pay­walls. The open access mod­el has changed things, but the only way to tru­ly serve the “best inter­ests of researchers and the pub­lic,” neu­ro­sci­en­tist Shaun Khoo argues, is through pub­lic infra­struc­ture and ful­ly non-prof­it pub­li­ca­tion.

Maybe Inter­net Archive Schol­ar can go some way toward bridg­ing the gap, as a pub­licly acces­si­ble, non-prof­it search engine, dig­i­tal cat­a­logue, and library for research that is worth pre­serv­ing, read­ing, and build­ing upon even if it does­n’t gen­er­ate share­hold­er rev­enue. For a deep­er dive into how the Archive built its for­mi­da­ble, still devel­op­ing, new data­base, see the video pre­sen­ta­tion above from Jef­fer­son Bai­ley, Direc­tor of Web Archiv­ing & Data Ser­vices. And have a look at Inter­net Archive Schol­ar here. It cur­rent­ly lacks advanced search func­tions, but plug in any search term and pre­pare to be amazed by the incred­i­ble vol­ume of archived full text arti­cles you turn up.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Inter­net Archive Makes 2,500 More Clas­sic MS-DOS Video Games Free to Play Online: Alone in the Dark, Doom, Microsoft Adven­ture, and Oth­ers

Libraries & Archivists Are Dig­i­tiz­ing 480,000 Books Pub­lished in 20th Cen­tu­ry That Are Secret­ly in the Pub­lic Domain

The Boston Pub­lic Library Will Dig­i­tize & Put Online 200,000+ Vin­tage Records

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The National Emergency Library Makes 1.5 Million Books Free to Read Right Now

The coro­n­avirus has closed libraries in coun­tries all around the world. Or rather, it’s closed phys­i­cal libraries: each week of strug­gle against the epi­dem­ic that goes by, more resources for books open to the pub­lic on the inter­net. Most recent­ly, we have the Inter­net Archive’s open­ing of the Nation­al Emer­gency Library, “a col­lec­tion of books that sup­ports emer­gency remote teach­ing, research activ­i­ties, inde­pen­dent schol­ar­ship, and intel­lec­tu­al stim­u­la­tion while uni­ver­si­ties, schools, train­ing cen­ters, and libraries are closed.” While the “nation­al” in the name refers to the Unit­ed States, where the Inter­net Archive oper­ates, any­one in the world can read its near­ly 1.5 mil­lion books, imme­di­ate­ly and with­out wait­lists, from now “through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US nation­al emer­gency, whichev­er is lat­er.”

“Not to be sneezed at is the sheer plea­sure of brows­ing through the titles,” writes The New York­er’s Jill Lep­ore of the Nation­al Emer­gency Library, going on to men­tion such vol­umes as How to Suc­ceed in Singing, Inter­est­ing Facts about How Spi­ders Live, and An Intro­duc­tion to Kant’s Phi­los­o­phy, as well as “Beck­ett on Proust, or Bloom on Proust, or just On Proust.” A his­to­ri­an of Amer­i­ca, Lep­ore finds her­self remind­ed of the Coun­cil on Books in Wartime, “a col­lec­tion of libraries, book­sellers, and pub­lish­ers, found­ed in 1942.” On the premise that “books are use­ful, nec­es­sary, and indis­pens­able,” the coun­cil “picked over a thou­sand vol­umes, from Vir­ginia Woolf’s The Years to Ray­mond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and sold the books, around six cents a copy, to the U.S. mil­i­tary.” By prac­ti­cal­ly giv­ing away 120 mil­lion copies of such books, the project “cre­at­ed a nation of read­ers.”

In fact, the Coun­cil on Books in Wartime cre­at­ed more than a nation of read­ers: the Amer­i­can “sol­diers and sailors and Army nurs­es and any­one else in uni­form” who received these books passed them along, or even left them behind in the far-flung places they’d been sta­tioned. Haru­ki Muraka­mi once told the Paris Review of his youth in Kobe, “a port city where many for­eign­ers and sailors used to come and sell their paper­backs to the sec­ond­hand book­shops. I was poor, but I could buy paper­backs cheap­ly. I learned to read Eng­lish from those books and that was so excit­ing.” See­ing as Muraka­mi him­self lat­er trans­lat­ed The Big Sleep into his native Japan­ese, it’s cer­tain­ly not impos­si­ble that an Armed Ser­vices Edi­tion count­ed among his pur­chas­es back then.

Now, in trans­la­tions into Eng­lish and oth­er lan­guages as well, we can all read Murakami’s work — nov­els like Nor­we­gian Wood and Kaf­ka on the Shore, short-sto­ry col­lec­tions like The Ele­phant Van­ish­es, and even the mem­oir What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning — free at the Nation­al Emer­gency Library. The most pop­u­lar books now avail­able include every­thing from Mar­garet Atwood’s The Hand­maid­’s Tale to the Kama SutraDr. Seuss’s ABC to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Sto­ries to Tell in the Dark (and its two sequels), Chin­ua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to, in dis­con­cert­ing first place, Sylvia Browne’s End of Days: Pre­dic­tions and Prophe­cy About the End of the World. You’ll even find, in the orig­i­nal French as well as Eng­lish trans­la­tion, Albert Camus’ exis­ten­tial epi­dem­ic nov­el La Peste, or The Plague, fea­tured ear­li­er this month here on Open Cul­ture. And if you’d rather not con­front its sub­ject mat­ter at this par­tic­u­lar moment, you’ll find more than enough to take your mind else­where. Enter the Nation­al Emer­gency Library here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

The Inter­net Archive “Lib­er­ates” Books Pub­lished Between 1923 and 1941, and Will Put 10,000 Dig­i­tized Books Online

11,000 Dig­i­tized Books From 1923 Are Now Avail­able Online at the Inter­net Archive

Free: You Can Now Read Clas­sic Books by MIT Press on

Enter “The Mag­a­zine Rack,” the Inter­net Archive’s Col­lec­tion of 34,000 Dig­i­tized Mag­a­zines

Use Your Time in Iso­la­tion to Learn Every­thing You’ve Always Want­ed To: Free Online Cours­es, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Col­or­ing Books & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Internet Archive Makes 2,500 More Classic MS-DOS Video Games Free to Play Online: Alone in the Dark, Doom, Microsoft Adventure, and Others

Back in 2015 we let you know that the Inter­net Archive made 2,400 com­put­er games from the era of MS-DOS free to play online: titles like Com­man­der KeenScorched Earth, and Prince of Per­sia may have brought back fond 1990s gam­ing mem­o­ries, as well as promised hours of more such enjoy­ment here in the 21st cen­tu­ry. That set of games includ­ed Id Soft­ware’s Wolfen­stein 3D, which cre­at­ed the genre of the first-per­son shoot­er as we know it, but the Inter­net Archive’s lat­est DOS-game upload — an addi­tion of more than 2,500 titles — includes its fol­low-up Doom, which took com­put­er gam­ing itself to, as it were, a new lev­el.

The Inter­net Archive’s Jason Scott calls this “our biggest update yet, rang­ing from tiny recent inde­pen­dent pro­duc­tions to long-for­got­ten big-name releas­es from decades ago.” After detail­ing some of the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges he and his team faced in get­ting many of the games to work prop­er­ly in web browsers on mod­ern com­put­ers — “a lot has changed under the hood and pro­grams were some­times only writ­ten to work on very spe­cif­ic hard­ware and a very spe­cif­ic set­up” — he makes a few rec­om­men­da­tions from this newest crop of games.

Scot­t’s picks include Microsoft Adven­ture, the DOS ver­sion of the very first com­put­er adven­ture game; the 1960s-themed rac­er Street Rod; and Super Munch­ers, one in a line of edu­ca­tion­al titles all of us of a cer­tain gen­er­a­tion will remem­ber from our class­room com­put­ers. Odd­i­ties high­light­ed by clas­sic game enthu­si­asts around the inter­net include Mr. Blob­by, based on the epony­mous char­ac­ter from the BBC com­e­dy show Noel’s House Par­ty; the undoubt­ed­ly thrilling sim­u­la­tor Pres­i­dent Elect — 1988 Edi­tion; and Zool, the only nin­ja-space-alien plat­former spon­sored by lol­lipop brand Chu­pa Chups.

This addi­tion of 2,500 com­put­er games to the Inter­net Archive also brings in no few undis­put­ed clas­sics whose influ­ence on the art and design of games is still felt today: Alone in the Dark, for exam­ple, prog­en­i­tor of the entire sur­vival-hor­ror genre; Microsoft Flight Sim­u­la­tor, inspi­ra­tion for a gen­er­a­tion of pilots; and Sim­C­i­ty 2000, inspi­ra­tion for a gen­er­a­tion of urban plan­ners. Among the adven­ture games, one of the strongest gen­res of the MS-DOS era, we have Dis­c­world, based on Ter­ry Pratch­et­t’s comedic fan­ta­sy nov­els, and from the mind of Har­lan Elli­son the some­what less comedic I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. One glance at the Inter­net Archive’s updat­ed com­put­er game col­lec­tion reveals that, no mat­ter how many games you played in the 90s, you’ll nev­er be able to play them all.

Get more infor­ma­tion on the new batch of games at the Inter­net Archive.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Free: Play 2,400 Vin­tage Com­put­er Games in Your Web Brows­er

Play a Col­lec­tion of Clas­sic Hand­held Video Games at the Inter­net Archive: Pac-Man, Don­key Kong, Tron and MC Ham­mer

1,100 Clas­sic Arcade Machines Added to the Inter­net Arcade: Play Them Free Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Libraries & Archivists Are Digitizing 480,000 Books Published in 20th Century That Are Secretly in the Public Domain

Image by Jason “Textfiles” Scott, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

All books in the pub­lic domain are free. Most books in the pub­lic domain are, by def­i­n­i­tion, on the old side, and a great many aren’t easy to find in any case. But the books now being scanned and uploaded by libraries aren’t quite so old, and they’ll soon get much eas­i­er to find. They’ve fall­en through a loop­hole because their copy­right-hold­ers nev­er renewed their copy­right, but until recent­ly the tech­nol­o­gy was­n’t quite in place to reli­ably iden­ti­fy and dig­i­tal­ly store them.

Now, though, as Vice’s Karl Bode writes, “a coali­tion of archivists, activists, and libraries are work­ing over­time to make it eas­i­er to iden­ti­fy the many books that are secret­ly in the pub­lic domain, dig­i­tize them, and make them freely avail­able online to every­one.” These were pub­lished between 1923 and 1964, and the goal of this dig­i­ti­za­tion project is to upload all of these sur­pris­ing­ly out-of-copy­right books to the Inter­net Archive, a glimpse of whose book-scan­ning oper­a­tion appears above.

“His­tor­i­cal­ly, it’s been fair­ly easy to tell whether a book pub­lished between 1923 and 1964 had its copy­right renewed, because the renew­al records were already dig­i­tized,” writes Bode. “But prov­ing that a book hadn’t had its copy­right renewed has his­tor­i­cal­ly been more dif­fi­cult.” You can learn more about what it takes to do that from this blog post by New York Pub­lic Library Senior Prod­uct Man­ag­er Sean Red­mond, who first crunched the num­bers and esti­mat­ed that 70 per­cent of the titles pub­lished over those 41 years may now be out of copy­right: “around 480,000 pub­lic domain books, in oth­er words.”

The first impor­tant stage is the con­ver­sion of copy­right records into the XML for­mat, a large part of which the New York Pub­lic Library has recent­ly com­plet­ed. Bode also men­tions a soft­ware devel­op­er and sci­ence fic­tion author named Leonard Richard­son who has writ­ten Python scripts to expe­dite the process (includ­ing a match­ing script to iden­ti­fy poten­tial­ly non-renewed copy­rights in the Inter­net Archive col­lec­tion) and a bot that iden­ti­fies new­ly dis­cov­ered secret­ly pub­lic-domain books dai­ly. Richard­son him­self under­scores the neces­si­ty of vol­un­teers to take on tasks like seek­ing out a copy of each such book, “scan­ning it, proof­ing it, then putting out HTML and plain-text edi­tions.”

This work is now hap­pen­ing at Amer­i­can libraries and among vol­un­teers from orga­ni­za­tions like Project Guten­berg. The Inter­net Archive’s Jason Scott has also pitched in with his own resources, recent­ly putting out a call for more help on the “very bor­ing, VERY BORING (did I men­tion bor­ing)” project of deter­min­ing “which books are actu­al­ly in the pub­lic domain to either sur­face them on or help make a hitlist.” Of course, many more obvi­ous­ly stim­u­lat­ing tasks exist even in the realm of dig­i­tal archiv­ing. But then, each secret­ly pub­lic-domain book iden­ti­fied, found, scanned, and uploaded brings human­i­ty’s print and dig­i­tal civ­i­liza­tions one step clos­er togeth­er. What­ev­er comes out of that union, it cer­tain­ly won’t be bor­ing.

via Vice

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pub­lic Domain Day Is Final­ly Here!: Copy­right­ed Works Have Entered the Pub­lic Domain Today for the First Time in 21 Years

11,000 Dig­i­tized Books From 1923 Are Now Avail­able Online at the Inter­net Archive

British Library to Offer 65,000 Free eBooks

Down­load for Free 2.6 Mil­lion Images from Books Pub­lished Over Last 500 Years on Flickr

Free: You Can Now Read Clas­sic Books by MIT Press on

The Library of Con­gress Launch­es the Nation­al Screen­ing Room, Putting Online Hun­dreds of His­toric Films

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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