Imagine a new Library of Alexandria. Imagine an archive that contains all the natural and social sciences of the West—our source-critical, referenced, peer-reviewed data—as well as the cultural and literary heritage of the world’s civilizations, and many of the world’s most significant archives and specialist collections. Imagine that this library is electronic and in the public domain: sustainable, stable, linked, and searchable through universal semantic catalogue standards. Imagine that it has open source-ware, allowing legacy digital resources and new digital knowledge to be integrated in real time. Imagine that its Second Web capabilities allowed universal researches of the bibliome. Well, why not imagine this library? Realizing such a dream is no longer a question of technology. Remarkable electronic libraries are already being assembled. Google Books aims to catalogue about 16 million books. The nonprofit Internet Archive already has some 1 million volumes. Public expectations run ahead even of these efforts. To do research, only one in a hundred American college students turn first to their university catalogue. Over 80 percent turn first to Google.

more from Lisbet Rausing at TNR here.