An article here tells us that people unspecified are beginning to create an electronic version of Paulys RealEncyclopadie at the German Wikipedia. Some 3,957 articles have been turned into text. Someone has noticed that the early volumes are all in the public domain (although the whole work was only completed in 1980).
But of course OCR’ing the text will make it searchable, and thereby increase markedly access to it. It will show up in search engines, for instance. And if part is online and part is not, when all German scholars start to use it — and why wouldn’t they? — sooner or later pressure will build to add the remainder. Already there are pirate versions of the whole series circulating around the web.
“But I don’t speak German!” I hear you cry. No matter. Google translate gives you the means to read this stuff. Just find the article, then pop the URL into Google translate, and you’re away.
Magic. And well done to the Germans in the white hats.