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Google's recently announced plans to make millions of books from five major libraries available online have sparked a drive to make as much information as possible universally accessible.

In this article in Nature, Andreas von Bubnoff charts the rise of the e-book by analysing a variety of digitisation ventures.

From private initiatives such as Google to public ventures like the Open Content Alliance, von Bubnoff discusses the motivations, successes and challenges facing those attempting to create an online database of reading material.

Millions of books can now be searched for and browsed online, but many contentious issues remain, such as how digitisation infringes on copyright, what the implications for libraries could be, and whether it may lead to shallower reading.

Von Bubhoff concludes that although access to a mix of real books and e-books could be the best option, the current wave of digitisation initiatives will certainly revolutionise and improve access to information.

Link to full article in Nature