January 20, 2014

Norway puts over 135,000 books into an online archive


The National Library of Norway is digitizing their collection, and they've found a payment model that seems to work.

The National Library of Norway is digitizing their collection, and they’ve found a payment model that seems to work.

The National Library of Norway has put over 135,000 books into an online archive. The Library is a ‘legal deposit library,’ which means that all books published in the country are represented; in other words, every book published in Norway, from the Middle Ages to Jo Nesbo, should go into the archive. The library is making all works available for free.

In Norway, copyrights expire 70 years after an author’s death, and the Library is paying the publishers and authors of works that are still copyright-protected. According to Marton Chilton at the Telegraph:

The National Library has signed an agreement with Kopinor, an umbrella group representing major authors and publishers through 22 member organisations, and for every digitised page that goes online, the library pays a predetermined sum to Kopinor, which will be responsible for distributing the royalties among its members. The per-page amount was 0.36 Norwegian kroner (four pence), which will decrease to three pence when the online collection reaches its estimated target of 250,000 books.

Pierre-Henry Deshayes at the AFP writes that steps were taken to protect authors: the website (“Bokhylla,” or “bookshelf” in Norwegian) only displays books published before 2000, only those using the internet from Norway are allowed access (with some exceptions for researchers), and it’s not possible to download any of the books. And while authors and publishers can request their book not be included, that has been a fairly rare occurence. Only 3,500 titles, mostly textbooks, have been struck from the list.

According to the Library, book sales are not being affected by the project.  Instead, says National Library head Moe Skarstein, “‘Bokhylla’ often gives a second life to works that are still under copyright but sold out at bookshops.” She went on to tell Deshayes that the digitization is no threat to book sales, explaining that “books are increasingly becoming perishable goods…When the novelty effect fades out, they sink into oblivion.” She noted that “eighty-five percent of all books available on the site have been accessed by users at some point, proving that digitising does not only benefit major works.”



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.