This is wonderful news.
I think there are two opposing forces these days. One group wants to make content freely available and easy to access for the good of all. Others focus on controlling content and access for the good of a few, but trying to convince us that the financial incentives are necessary for the content to be created and provided in the first place. And caught up in the middle are the bodies of lawmakers. Maybe compromise is possible? Unfortunately, lawmakers are generally more swayed by financial incentives than by the general good.
There's much hope from efforts like those at Gutenburg, this Google intiative, and many others including the academic community and libraries. How on earth can anyone justify strong control of content decades after it is created? Especially when it's in the name of "better for the common good of all"!
So the obvious question here is what will be available... How much? Which titles? Will legal challenges limit the work? What formats? Will it expand past written materials to audio and video?
Not too long ago I was trying to find some information from research journals. Everywhere I turned I was amazed to find that you really could get to published research and maybe even working papers. But at every turn it seemed you couldn't get past the abstract and into the full article unless you had an account. I guess that means either you spend lots of money or you get access through your academic institution, library or company. But there's too much $$ at stake, and $$ is not something that people like to let go of, even for the common good. So I don't see a lot of modern content becoming available.
Please somebody show me I'm wrong.. it would be wonderful to see all content available via the internet for free. But, unfortunately, I think that's only stuff for dreams.
BTW, Can someone summarize what Bill Gates envisioned in his virtual library? Is it feasible?