Recently the Archive organization opened up the front-end library restrictions. This happened for a lot of reasons, mainly because the actual libraries were shut down due to the Coronavirus.
This sparked a huge debate about publishing rights and all that crap.
It’s all just noise. It’s just rights holders nagging about people having access to information. The archive states that they offer ebook versions of scanned paper books. They have a right to do that in order to preserve information. Bit rot is real. Digital obsolescence is real. Information is getting lost already, we’ve lost computer code, recordings, video games, so much stuff, and if we don’t take steps to preserve what we make it will all be gone in an instant.
Nothing is backwards compatible. Google books is preserving a massive library of information and has been attacked for the same reason. It’s not cutting into your sales, and it’s not cutting into our sales. In fact, the Archive is an actual credible library, meaning they pay their dues and we, as rights holders, receive royalties for that. They simply opened up the restrictions and many people can borrow the ebook at a single time.
When I found out about it, I actually reached out and asked the Archive how I could preserve my own stories. I thought it’d be an automated process, just give them permission or something. They gave me access to upload, it’s not that hard, but the process was very time-consuming and I have better things to do with my life than struggle with library uploads. All my stories are already available through all of the worldwide and official library systems already, and those that are not will be in there soon. I don’t have time to upload to yet another system, one that can pull my stories from their existing partners.
I think it was Quentin Tarantino who said that when you store a movie in any format, you have to put a VCR or an equivalent player in the box with it. He famously almost lost one of his early films due to an obsolete storage format, and some fan from around the world found out about it and sent him the player so he could watch it again and record it into something else.
Not everyone will have that chance. Not all creators are famous, and not all are still alive. Things like the Disney Vault, DRM (which is crap), and other platform-specific restrictions will end up in huge loss of data. Not all of it is useful, but not all of it is worthless at the same time. You never know what will become influential in the future.
And the digital age will be known as the time that we lost so much of our world’s culture.