Norway's massive project to digitize all its books

How long does it take to digitize a country's entire print media collection? About 20-30 years.

Norway has a knack for preservation. Its Svalbard Global Seed Vault has the most diverse crop collection in the world . But Norway isn't just trying to protect the elements that sustain life, it's protecting the country's unique culture.

The National Library of Norway is in the middle of an ambitious project -- required by law -- to digitize all the country's published content, in all media. Every day the library is digitizing "several terabytes" of everything from books and magazines to government reports and handwritten manuscripts. After 20-30 years, the project -- which started in 2006 -- is expected to be complete. 

In addition to being a record of the "nation’s collective memory," the project will provide widespread access to an immense amount of information. That means all materials not protected by copyright will be available online for anyone to access. For materials that are protected by copyright, anyone with a Norwegian IP address will be able to access them.  

As Alexis Madrigal points out at The Atlantic, the country's attempt to digitize just about everything possible stands in stark contrast to a country like the United States, where digitization attempts aren't always embraced in the same way.

Here in the States, we are struggling to make even a small percentage of English-language works accessible to the citizens of our fine country, despite the efforts of groups like the Digital Public Library of America, Hathi Trust, and (I dare say) Google.
It's worth pointing out that Google gained a major victory for Google Books and digitization when a federal judge ruled last month that Google isn't breaking copyright law by putting all or portions of more than 20 million books online. Still, digitization of media in the U.S. has mostly been hindered by law, not promoted by it.

Read more: The Atlantic, National Library of Norway

Photo: Flickr/Arne Halvorsen

This post was originally published on