Original Announcement


If you’re here, now, it’s because you love books. Because you believe books are worth saving. Because you understand that books should not be destroyed in order to be preserved.

This machine, the Archivist, intends to bring books into the future, intact. Think of it as a beautiful black wooden bridge between your bookshelf and your Kindle. It is the culmination of hundreds of prototypes and years of labor. Filled with countless thoughtful details from thousands of willing contributors. People like you.

You might wonder why I would spend five years building DIY Book Scanner kits. You might ask, “Aren’t most books digitally available now?” — and you’d be right to wonder. But high quality, low cost book scanners are still tough to find in 2014. It’s not just that library budgets across the US have been slashed to ruin – it’s also that $15,000 scanners were never appropriate for 80% of the world’s libraries. Just like your community collections, those Haitian hospital records will never be scanned by Google (and not for any fault on their part). That tattered book you colored as a child lacks resale value. Only ten of those photocopied feminist zines were ever stapled together. That disaster or disk failure will come too soon, and it will take your books without warning. Or worse, they’ll turn off the authorization servers to those expensive digital collections.

Many book scanning machines and projects have come and gone. For all the promises, for all the bindings cut and pages turned, we still cannot access our personal and community libraries on our personal devices. Just like vinyl, 8-track, cassettes, and CDs, the associated industries would have us buy the same things again and again. But we already bought and loved those books, and we already own them. Why rent – especially when we, bibliophiles and librarians, are in a position to lend?

We have to do it ourselves. Like Wikipedia leveled Britannica. Like little mammals thrived where dinosaurs fell. Like dinosaurs evolved into birds. Working together, helping people help themselves- that is the goal and the soul of this machine. It is Open to the core. It is maximally modifiable. It is made of sensible, affordable, understandable things like bicycle parts and skateboard bearings. It is the Volkswagen Beetle of book scanners, suitable for the everyman, but powerful enough for a librarian.