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This article was published on October 31, 2019

Internet Archive makes it easy to read books cited on Wikipedia

Internet Archive makes it easy to read books cited on Wikipedia

The Internet Archive this week announced it was partnering with Wikipedia to link the latter’s book citations to the former’s redoubtable library. In future, when users look up a source on page, they may be able to get a digital copy of the book from the Internet Archive.

Both sites collaborated to link 130,000 citations on various articles to 50,000 of the Archive’s digital book repository. When a users clicks on these linked citations, it takes them to a copy of the page on the Archive’s site, where they can see the source directly.

The Archive offers a digital lending library of ebooks — the system lets patrons sponsor a particular book, which is then scanned and added to the system. Anyone who finds a book source from the linked Wikipedia page will be able to see a preview of its content, but will have to pay to borrow it.

Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Archive, hinted this might be part of a larger effort to incorporate digitized book references into other sites: “What has been written in books over many centuries is critical to informing a generation of digital learners… We hope to connect readers with books by weaving books into the fabric of the web itself, starting with Wikipedia.”

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As much as we all like going to Wikipedia for information, it’s an encyclopedia of sources. Often articles are cited from information only available in books — for example, the citations on the page for the American Civil War are almost entirely from books. While physical resources like libraries are always a great thing to have, not everyone has access to them, and there may be some books available on the IA’s digital library that a local one doesn’t carry.

It’s fitting that the Internet Archive features a quote from a relieved teenage student in its release, because I can see this being a big boon for fledgling researchers. A whole generation of kids instinctively go to Wikipedia first for information, so offering them an easy way to delve deeper into a topic can only help them. Heck, Wikipedia was the go-to for basic info when I was a college student — I can only imagine how helpful these ebook links would have been to me at the time.

The Archive says it’s hoping digitize at least 4 million more books “within the next several years.”

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