In an op-ed written for The Nation, journalist and new media pioneer Maria Bustillos took a critical look at the lawsuit, the concept of an open library and what ownership means when major publishers seek to change what it means to own a book.
“With Open Library, you were able to borrow a book based on the existence of the physical book in that Open Library’s collection,” says Bustillos during an interview on CultureShift on 101.9 WDET.
“When the pandemic hit and it became clear that a lot of students were affected by the lockdown and unable to access books, the head of the Internet Archive decided that he would suspend borrowing limits,” explains Bustillos. “Instead of making it one person per book, that limit was suspended so 10 people could borrow that same book. They buy, acquire and people donate physical copies to them, which they then scan. Each book that they scan becomes a file that you can check out and the physical book remains stored, it doesn’t circulate.”
Bustillos points out that in addition to a change in ownership being at stake, what’s also at risk is cultural preservation and broad, inclusive access to archival material — in essence, a key component as to why libraries exist.