Brewster Kahle of the San Francisco-based Internet Archive (also known as "the Wayback Machine") has announced that all 1.6 million books scanned and digitized by the Archive will soon be available for reading on XO laptops built by the Cambridge, MA-based One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation. I wonder if there is a commercial follow-on product in the works.
The One Laptop Per Child Foundation has already placed more than one million ruggedized laptops into the hands of schoolchildren in dozens of third-world countries. These laptops can network with each other and, if available, with an Internet connection as well. The one million, six hundred thousand books already scanned by the Internet Archive are being reformatted to work with the OLPC laptop's smaller than normal screen. The XO laptop reportedly is an excellent book reader and now will have millions of books available in financially strapped locations that do not even have a library nor the funds to build any location capable of storing millions of printed books. Now all the books will also be available to the roughly 750,000 to 1 million schoolchildren who are using XO laptops today.The books included nearly all the out of copyright classics in English as well as in a number of other languages.
I have to wonder if a similar effort could be made for genealogy books. In fact, there are such efforts underway today. The Lee Library at Brigham Young University has already digitized tens of thousands of family history books and placed them online at no charge. (See http://www.lib.byu.edu/fhc.) All you need is an Internet connection and a computer. Commercial services, including NewsBank, HeritageQuest Online (a division of ProQuest), Footnote.com, Ancestry.com, and others already offer digitized books, often at modest prices. Google Books, the Internet Archive, and others are making all kinds of books available online at no chanrge, including genealogy and family history books.
I suspect that we will all soon have access to hundreds of thousands of genealogy books, far more than could ever fit into any single library. These will be available in your home at any time of the day or night. There will be no need to travel to a distant repository.