LibraryBox is an anonymous fileserver based on cheap hardware that runs on little power and serves files to any wifi-enabled device with a browser. It is a fork of the Open Source project PirateBox, altered to be more comfortable to use for libraries, educators, and anyone else that has a need to serve files in locations that lack reliable, unfiltered connectivity with the Internet.
LibraryBox is currently in use around the world by libraries, teachers, museums and more, in more than 7 countries on 5 continents. The v1.5 release is useful, but with work LibraryBox can be much better. Moving towards the 2.0 release, there is a host of ways that LibraryBox could be better, should be better, and this Kickstarter is a step towards making the LibraryBox project even more useful.
For another look at LibraryBox, here's the introductory video from the website, which has an example of use:
For a more thorough discussion of Project Goals, check out Update 6!
SUCCESS! $25,000 - FTP updating access
If we hit $25,000, we’ll include the ability to use FTP to update the contents of the downloads folder without having to physically remove the USB or touch the LibraryBox at all. You’ll be able to connect to the wifi signal with your laptop or tablet and FTP new items to the LibraryBox, or remove old items from the LibraryBox. This will make managing Boxen in the wild much, much easier.
$30,000 - Mesh networking
If we make it all the way to $30K, we will add mesh networking to LibraryBox 2.0. What is mesh networking? In short, it would allow LibraryBoxen to connect, peer-to-peer, and automatically compare and cross-load content from one box to the other. You could have a series of Boxen in a city, all within wifi-range of each other, and when you updated one LibraryBox, it would automatically reach out and send the new content to the other Boxen in range.
How will the money be spent?
With the money raised here, I will be able to fund the development of the v2.0 release. In many ways, I have reached the extent of my programming abilities, and while I know where LibraryBox needs to go and have defined development plans, I need to be able to trade cash for expertise and find programmers who can help me make LibraryBox even better. I understand the project, but it needs better programmers than me...help me find and pay them to make LibraryBox more awesome.
Anything raised here on Kickstarter will also be used to purchase hardware for experimentation, specifically a variety of solar panel, battery, and weatherproof container options in order to develop a recipe/purchasing guide for building your own solar powered LibraryBox. Hardware will also need to be purchased in order to develop and test installation of the v2.0 software, as it is important for the future of the project that it not be tied to a single type of hardware, just in case said hardware is discontinued.
Uses for LibraryBox
There’s an enormous amount of potential, as the overlap between “want to share digital files” and “there is no Internet” can be a big one. Here are just a few examples of the ways that people are using LibraryBox around the world:
- The non-profit organization Worldreader (http://www.worldreader.org/) is currently using a LibraryBox to deliver books hyper-locally in Accra, and in July will be extending their service to a location in Eastern Ghana. Worldreader’s mission is to make digital books available to all in the developing world, and LibraryBox is a tool that can help them fulfill that mission.
- Early in the development of LibraryBox, I was contacted by an English teacher who was having difficulty. He was in China, and he was concerned that while his students from families with a higher income had no trouble getting to English-language learning materials because they could simply VPN past the Great Firewall, the students whose families were not in the higher economic bracket could not access materials as easily. His answer was to set up a LibraryBox for his class that contained all of the recommended material, which ensured that all of his students had equal access to the information regardless of socio-economic station.
- Here in the United States, LibraryBox was used extensively at the 2013 South-by-Southwest Interactive conference (SXSWi) by a group of librarians and academics called SXSW-LAM (Libraries, Archives, Museums). They helped organize a remarkable collective that included the Digital Public Library of America, MIT Press, and others that provided support and content for 10 LibraryBoxen that were built for the conference. A portion of these were placed in strategically-interesting locations, while others were installed onto pedicabs that roamed Austin during the entire conference, making a travelling digital library of materials that were accessible to anyone within wifi range.
- I have had discussions with teachers in Middle and High Schools that are tired of fighting with overly-sensitive Internet filters mandated by school systems that are using LibraryBox to provide access to materials in their classrooms.
- There are librarians that are using LibraryBox as an outreach tool, taking one with them when they do school visits, installing them at Farmer’s Markets in their towns to enable ebook downloads while people shop, and putting them into their Bookmobile so that they can distribute digital as well as physical books cheaply and easily.
- LibraryBox was a finalist for the 2013 OpenITP Grant, which is awarded to a project “meant to support specific technical efforts to improve users' ability to circumvent censorship and surveillance on the Internet.” It unfortunately wasn’t funded, but as a finalist it was recognized as a tool that supports the circumvention of surveillance in the sharing of information.
Features for the LibraryBox 2.0 release
- Much easier installation. The goal with the 2.0 release is to bundle all needed packages together and remove the need to be connected to the Internet to pull packages down.
- More control over user interface and general look and feel. The current release is difficult to modify, and the desire is for the 2.0 to have complete customizability for the pages served and to host those pages on the USB external drive rather than the internal storage of the MR3020, giving far more flexibility in access and design process.
- An instruction set for easy off-the-grid use with recommended purchasing and how-to for a weatherproof solar LibraryBox installation.
- Instructions and builds for alternative hardware, including the Raspberry Pi, that will allow the project to be more flexibly implemented.
All of these I consider baseline needs for the 2.0. There are definitely other needs that should be addressed that I think fit best as Stretch Goals for the project, as they will involve finding developers willing to help. My plan is to incentivize said development by using the money raised as Stretch Goals to pay for the development time for these features.
The first Stretch Goal will be revealed as soon as the project is funded, and more features will be added to the v2.0 release as the stretch goals are hit. If we raise a ton of money, the v2.0 will have a ton a features!
LibraryBox always has been and always will be an Open Source project. All of the existing code (including the website, etc) is available on GitHub, and the development will continue to be done transparently and openly. This project is designed to be replicated...I want as many people to freely download and make their own LibraryBoxen as possible. This Kickstarter is the best way I have to trade money for time, and try to speed up the process of the 2.0 release.
$10 - Sticker for the MR3020
For $10 you get to choose one of the two sticker designs. The first will be a high-quality die-cut sticker sized specifically for the hardware that LibraryBox is designed for, the TP-Link MR3020. It will fit exactly along the top of the box, leaving the LEDs exposed. This one is designed to make your LibraryBox look uber-professional.
The second sticker is a weatherproof vinyl sticker designed to be equally at home on your laptop and on the side of a building where you've mounted your LibraryBox.
$30 - T-Shirt
All-cotton T-shirt in a full range of sizes (including women's and children's sizes!) printed with the Limited Edition Kickstarter green logo on the front.
$100 - Your Own Private Limited Edition LibraryBox v2.0
For $100, you'll get one of 20 limited edition LibraryBoxen, based on the MR3020 hardware with an 8GB USB thumb drive for file storage. I'll build it, test it, and ship it to you. This Kickstarter is currently the only way to get a working LibraryBox shipped to you...get them while they're hot.
$150 - LibraryBox v2.0
Just because you weren't one of the lucky first 20 doesn't mean you can't have a pre-built LibraryBox shipped your way...it just means it costs a little more. You get the regular price instead of the super-awesome early bird price.
$200 - Limited Edition LibraryBox v2.0 w/ 3D printed container
You should choose this reward level if you just can't live without the awesomeness of a custom designed 3D printed box for your LibraryBox. Designed to fit the MR3020 and USB perfectly, the container will be printed in a Kickstarteresque neon green PLA bioplastic. Complete with a slide-in lid that has the LibraryBox 2.0 logo and a strategically placed opening in the side for powering your LibraryBox, the container makes a great way to protect the LibraryBox from the harsh environment of your backpack or bag. Includes the same LibraryBox as the $100 limited reward level, complete with MR3020 + USB, built and tested by yours truly.
$250 - LibraryBox v2.0 w/ 3D printed container
Same container as the above $200 reward, except in slightly less awesome Regular Edition Orange PLA. Not cool and neon like the Limited edition, but if you weren't one of the first 20, them's the breaks. Sorry! Also includes an MR3020 + USB drive based LibraryBox 2.0, tested and built by myself.
Risks and challenges
The major risk for the project would be delay due to time constraints or the inability to find development partners to hit the Stretch Goals. Having worked for over a year to get LibraryBox to a 1.5 release, I am confident that I am capable of getting it to the basic 2.0 release. The additional features beyond the basic 2.0 are the areas that need additional expertise, and failure to find appropriate development talent would be the largest risk. I am well connected with the PirateBox development community, with which LibraryBox shares the majority of the underlying code, and feel confident that I can enlist help from that community if needed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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