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World Public Library Nears 3 Million Titles

by johnguagliardo 8. August 2012 20:16

The World Library Book Beat Blog
Volume 2, Number 8
Wednessday, August 8, 2012

World Public Library Nears 3 Million Titles
This interview was given a year ago today - re-published in memory of Michael Hart
 (Access September 2011, No. 78)

Founded in 1996, the World Public Library Association is a global coordinated effort to preserve and disseminate classic works of literature, serials, bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and other reference works in a number of languages and countries around the world. Its branches, designed specifically for the needs of a different type of reader, are the World Public Library, (General Public eBook Portal,, the School eBook Library, (Kindergarten to High School Student eBook Discovery Portal) and the World eBook Library, (Academic and Research eBook Portal) With the World eBook Library nearing the three million volumes milestone, ACCESS talked by email with its Executive Director John Guagliardo and Michael Hart, Executive Vice President, Department of Public Relations for the World Public Library, to learn more about this remarkable collection.

ACCESS: Are you booklovers who became businessmen or businessmen who became booklovers?
Michael Hart:
We are definitely not businessmen. We are bibliophiles, teachers, and librarians. John, our Executive Director, had worked as a school teacher for years and was the President of the Hawaii Library Association (American Library Association’s Hawaii Chapter).
John Guagliardo: I think much of our library’s popularity amongst readers is because we aren’t too concerned if our decisions make business sense, but rather sense to what a reader would want. Far too often businessmen are more concerned with the bottom line, what is profitable, and not what is important for folks who are simply looking for a good book to discover.

ACCESS: How many books do you have?
Currently the World Public Library shelves about two million eBooks. We are in the process of adding another one million. We should have all three million eBooks available by the end of 2011.

ACCESS: All in English?
Our library has eBooks in over 300 different languages. You can view the count of how many titles are in each language by using the drop down menu in our Advanced Search form. We have some 500,000 eBooks in languages other than English and a few hundred thousand more non-English tiles to be added soon. In addition to PDF eBooks, we also have over 21,000 MP3 audio eBook files. All audio eBooks are recorded performance readings, downloadable and are excellent to listen to while on the go.

ACCESS: All titles are available for all formats?
All of our eBooks are in PDF file format. We specifically chose this file type because it is the universal standard for all computers, PDA, Smart Phones, and eBook readers. Apple and Amazon have both been very generous and donated a number of their devices to us to make sure our eBooks display beautifully on their eBook readers.

ACCESS: What’s so great about old books from obscure writers?
Great question. I love discovering the obscure writers, the lesser known the better. I often find that writers that are commercially successful have dumbed down their writing so as to make it more palatable to the widest possible audience; while the lesser known writers will write with a higher sense of artistic integrity. Although not appealing to all, such works are most essential for researchers and academics, hence the writers remain obscure because of the limited audience.

ACCESS: Which is the most successful part of the world for the World Public Library?
Believe it or not the greatest proportion of eBook downloads come from Asia and a significant percentage of them are to smartphones. In addition, we have long been aware that since there are billions and billions more cellphones than computers, our market for phones of all varieties, is much larger than anyone else expected.

ACCESS: Are there any downloading issues for individuals or libraries?
The only problem we have is since other eLibrary portals don’t allow downloading and prohibit portable eBooks; folks aren’t too familiar with how to add PDF eBooks and MP3 audio eBooks to their PDAs, smartphones and other devices. To help with this we are making a number of ‘How To’ tutorials showing how easily it is to download and use portable PDF eBooks.

ACCESS: Are orphan works an issue? How are they dealt with?
When you say “issue” with orphaned works, I assume you mean copyrighted works whose rights holders can no longer be found. We really don’t include too many titles we go out and get ourselves. We act more like a library instead of a publishing company where we provide shelf space for others to fill. Most of our works are provided to us direct from contributors and publishers, so we don’t pursue acquisitions of new titles that are from unqualified sources. However, the protocol that we would follow for such cases are the guidelines set by the U.S. Copyright Office’s Report on Orphan Works.


John Guagliardo, Executive Director, World Public Library



Mhchael Hart, Executive Vice President, World Public Library

ACCESS: Do present copyright laws hinder World Public Library collection development?
Absolutely. Project Gutenberg and World Public Library have been big advocates against the current US and European copyright laws and the lobbying of media companies and the publishing industry who pushed it through. We have been telling folks about the problems with copyright laws for years. Michael and I can talk about this issue all day. I will just say, check out Michael’s series of newsletters on the history and stifling problems of copyright today.
M.H: To keep my response short, I’ll identify the series of major copyright laws that created the system we, here, in the US, are stifled with today, and why. 1709, The Statute of Anne, created solely to stifle The Gutenberg Press and its ilk. 1831, The US Copyright Act of 1831 stifled the 1830 fast steam press. 1909, The US Copyright Act of 1909 stifled the new electric presses. 1976, The US Copyright Act of 1976 stifled the new Xerox machines. 1998, The US Copyright Act of 1998 stifled the new internet publishing. As you can see, each of these truly major technological innovations that could have brought the entire public domain to the masses liberating the wisdom of our ancestors was subsequently stifled by copyright law. Today the U.S Copyright protection starts in 1923. It is no coincidence that that protection starts just before the creation of Mickey Mouse (created in 1928) and publication of Winnie the Pooh in 1926, each one of which grosses huge amounts for Disney. [The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 is also known as The Mickey Mouse Protection Act – Ed.]

ACCESS: Is World Public Library related to large scale digitization projects such as Google Books and Project Gutenberg?
The World Public Library works with all publishers and independent digitization projects, creating strategic alliances and mutually beneficial partnerships to encourage contributions to our virtual shelves. For example, the World Public Library and Project Gutenberg have a long standing symbiotic and synergetic relationship.
M.H: I am the founder of Project Gutenberg and the inventor of eBooks and have worked with John on these projects since 1999 when, as President of the Hawaii Library Association, he invited me to speak at their Annual Meeting. We have been working together ever since. Google made their publicity blitz with Google Books exactly one year after meeting with the Project Gutenberg staff along with most other general eLibraries at Google World Headquarters. A fair number of Google Books are simply derivative copies of Project Gutenberg’s books that have been rebranded.

ACCESS: What are the sources of the collection?
We receive eBook donations from the whole world, learning more and more about that world as we do so. I would have to say the total number of people who contributed an effort to these collections of eBooks is approaching 300,000 if it hasn't already passed that number.

ACCESS: In the Asia-Pacific, what does working with the iGroup bring?
We are very excited to be represented by iGroup. We would love to bring more eBooks to Asia and with the iGroup’s help I’m sure it will happen. I have pushed, pushed and pushed for years to expand our library’s eBooks beyond the early boundaries of English and the United States. The iGroup brings technology and marketing skills to the World Public Library as well. Our library doesn’t have any marketers. Getting the word out isn’t our core competency. Our focus is on the reader’s experience and creating new and innovative ways to engage the reader’s imagination.

ACCESS: What is the World eBook Fair?
The World eBook Fair is a reflection of our strong commitment to bring the most eBooks to the most people worldwide. Our growth curve for this effort has been truly phenomenal. The First World eBook Fair had 300,000 books available; in 2008, the Fair doubled to 600,000 books; and in 2009, it offered 1,250,000 books. This year World eBook Fair offered 6,500,000 eBooks!

ACCESS: What new developments we can expect in the coming year?
We are planning to announce our effort to create an eLibrary of one billion eBooks this coming year.

ACCESS: Finally, what are your thoughts on Google Books?
We were here long before Google and have quite different policies about indexing, cataloguing and downloading so there isn't all that much relationship to Google Books in terms of changing us.
J.G: The World Public Library is a unique type of discovery technology. Our portals and eBooks are specially designed to both balance the academic researcher’s needs for discovering relevant complex correlative information and the recreational reader’s need to find an enjoyable place to discover a good book. World Public Library eBooks are unlike other online eBooks as all our eBooks are also portable. Our signature editions of digitally remastered works, have ‘text-search’ capability, text readability, optimized page dimensions for mobile device and printing, and are upgraded with display metadata. We feel that our Signature Editions eBooks will engage readers like no other books can. Additionally, from a library’s standpoint, World Public Library empowers libraries with OPAC integration tools, MARC database resources, Counter Compliant Statistics, and exportable patrons’ usages reports. Read more about the World Public Library in its weekly newsletter.

This interview was completed just before the death of Michael Hart on 6 September, a man whose vision has changed the world.


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