Google monopoly and summer/winter

If you are interested in the future of books, in either print or digital form – and you should be – there’s an intriguing article in the New York Review of Books and reprinted at the weekend in The Guardian. The article by Robert Darnton dissects the legal and moral arguments in relation to Google’s attempt to digitise the world of books. What  is particularly interesting – and potentially scary, depending on your viewpoint – is that Google could well end up with ultimate control over our access to digitised books and could, in theory, limit our access to certain books. Darnton writes fluently and comes up with an intriguing idea i.e. that the US government should replace Google as the controller and provider of digitised books in a kind of universal public library. His article is aimed mainly at north American readers and I’m sure that suggestions of a more international body for digitised books would find favour across the world. The legal process goes on and we need to watch it.

Here in Scotland, it’s winter. This time of year is often referred to as ‘midwinter’ although technically this is not the case as December is the first winter month. Many of you reading this will be in summer and perhaps enjoying, or getting ready to enjoy the summer holidays. This is the final blog entry for 2009. So I wish you all best wishes for whatever festive season you may be celebrating- if indeed you are celebrating one. Back in 2010.

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2 Responses to “Google monopoly and summer/winter”

  1. Fiona Says:

    Best wishes over the holidays, and I look forward to reading more from you in 2010.

  2. John Wilkin Says:

    I think Bob does a fair amount of his arguing through innuendo, which leads to conclusions that simply aren’t supported. The notion that “Google could well end up with ultimate control over our access to digitised books and could, in theory, limit our access to certain books” is only true if the participating institutions don’t exercise rights they’ve negotiated in publicly viewable contracts like the University of Michigan’s. We have the right to take back a copy of everything digitized and make independent decisions about access, limited only by the constraints of the law (and not an agreement with Google, which one might conclude from reading Bob’s jeremiads). Most of the Google partners and other libraries doing large-scale digitization have come together in HathiTrust, and now provide access to 8 million volumes, 2 million of which are deemed to be in the public domain in the United States. Going our separate ways has ensured, for example, that the HathiTrust partners can make reasonable and distinct public domain interpretations, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of volumes being opened in HathiTrust and *not* opened in Google Book Search. For more on HathiTrust, see http://www.hathitrust.org/.

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