We’ve juiced up the entirely artificial copyright laws of the world to the point that if libraries weren’t already a centuries-old cultural institution, there’s no chance they’d ever be able to come into existence today.
Most of the time, and for most people, “forever” is that piece of time that we can see with our own eyes. Forever is the length of a single, human life.
This, I believe, is why a book feels permanent, even though enough libraries have burned over the centuries that we ought to know better. A well-made book, stored upright, in a dry, dark place, will survive a hundred years—that is, a lifetime. More if it is especially well printed, and only carefully handled, but a hundred years is a safe bet. Plenty of time to read it as a child, hold onto it through adolescence and adulthood, and then give it to your first great-grandchild. That’s as much forever as any of us can reasonably conceive.
If you have an Apple Mobile Device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch) it's actually possible to sync it with multiple computers. You just have to understand the rules. Apple groups things into four categories:
Data – the data or info category consists primarily of things like your contacts, calendar, bookmarks, notes, email accounts, etc. This information can either be sync'd via iTunes or wirelessly via MobileMe or Microsoft Exchange (although Notes currently can only be sync'd via iTunes).
Media – the media category consists of your music, movies, music videos, TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, ringtones, iTunesU and now iBooks. This content can either be sync'd or managed manually.
Photos – well this category is pretty self explanatory. It's your photo library and all of your photo albums. Your photos can either be in iPhoto or simply in a folders and subfolders.
Apps – last but certainly not least is your Apps that you've downloaded from the App Store.
Now that you know what the four categories are the content from these four categories can live on one, two, three or four different computers.
It's safe to assume that the digitized books that scholars will be working with then will be the very same ones that are sitting on Google's servers today, augmented by the millions of titles published in the interim.
That realization lends a particular urgency to the concerns that people have voiced about the settlement —about pricing, access, and privacy, among other things. But for scholars, it raises another, equally basic question: What assurances do we have that Google will do this right?