After a failed settlement last year, Google's goal of scanning the world's books has stalled, with many libraries and authors distrusting the company's intentions. Nicholas Carr tracks Harvard's attempt to build a truly democratic version, the Digital Public Library of America:
[Harvard library director Robert Darnton's] inspiration for the DPLA came not from today's technologists but from the great philosophers of the Enlightenment. As ideas circulated through Europe and across the Atlantic during the 18th century, propelled by the technologies of the printing press and the post office, thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson came to see themselves as citizens of a Republic of Letters, a freethinking meritocracy that transcended national borders. It was a time of great intellectual fervor and ferment, but the Republic of Letters was "democratic only in principle," Darnton pointed out in an essay in the New York Review of Books: "In practice, it was dominated by the wellborn and the rich." With the Internet, we could at last rectify that inequity.