Fascinating plan this one, and seems pretty sensible from a copyright perspective. It has echoes of the way that HarperCollins has been engaging with new subscription services (ie: breaking out frontlist and backlist titles). One thing this brings to the forefront of my mind however is that this increasing move to split out front list will reinforce the hit driven nature of the business:
The good news is that so far sales in bookshops do not appear to have been affected by the project. Instead, Bokhylla often gives a second life to works that are still under copyright but sold out at bookshops, said Moe Skarstein. “Books are increasingly becoming perishable goods,” she told AFP reporter Pierre-Henry Deshayes, “when the novelty effect fades out, they sink into oblivion. Many national libraries digitise their collections for conservation reasons or even to grant access to them, but those are (older) books that are already in the public domain. We thought that, since we had to digitise all our collection in order to preserve it for the next 1,000 years, it was also important to broaden access to it as much as possible.”
via Books go online for free in Norway – Telegraph.
But even this chart may understate the effects of copyright, since the comparison assumes that the same quantity of books has been published every decade. This is of course not the case: Increasing literacy coupled with technological efficiencies mean that far more titles are published per year in the 21st century than in the 19th. The exact number per year for the last 200 years is unknown, but Heald and his assistants were able to arrive at a pretty good approximation by relying on the number of titles available for each year in WorldCat, a library catalog that contains the complete listings of 72,000 libraries around the world. He then normalized his graph to the decade of the 1990s, which saw the greatest number of titles published. By this calculation, the effect of copyright appears extreme.
Heald says that the WorldCat research showed, for example, that there were eight times as many books published in the 1980s as in the 1880s, but there are roughly as many titles available on Amazon for the two decades. A book published during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur has a greater chance of being in print today than one published during the time of Reagan.
via The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish – Rebecca J. Rosen – The Atlantic.