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29.11.08

Europeana Goes Live and Immediately Dies

Still catching up on the article reading missed during our trip to Rome, so the news about the European Union's digital library project just came to my attention. Europeana was supposed to be Europe's answer to the Google Books project. As reported by Claire Bommelaer in Le Figaro (L'Europe lance sa première bibliothèque numérique, November 20), the preliminary version of the project's Web site went live, with about two million online documents. It was actually supposed to be more than just books (my translation):

Among the initial contents will be Dante's Divine Comedy, paintings like Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring, historical documents like the British Magna Carta, recordings or manuscripts of Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin, or images of the fall of the Berlin Wall. From now until 2010, the plan was to reach at least six million works and to improve the portal to allow users to interact with one another and to allow multilingual usage. Brussels was supposed to invest 120 million € in 2009 and 2010 to improve the digitalization technology, and 40 million for the translation part, like automatic translation, which will be possible in 23 languages. Within two years, the question of more recent content, which pose problems of copyright compensation, will surely be worked out, thanks to agreements made with the publishers.
It all sounded great -- all of that French literature instantly translated into English! -- and that is what everyone apparently thought. According to an article (European digital library site crashes, November 21) by Stephen Castle in the International Herald Tribune, the site designers' predicted Internet traffic of five million hits per hour was exceeded by three times as much, overwhelming the servers and setting back the opening date for a few more weeks. Put me down among those who will be checking out that site more carefully when it reopens in mid-December.

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