Siva Vaidhyanathan (a professor in my department, btw) has posted reader comments from his original request for feedback as to some of the concerns with of Google’s plan to digitize library books. He was kind enough to include my repsonse, as well as the insight of Jessamyn (who Siva describes as a “major voice in the library community”). Here’s Jessamyn’s contribution:
A lot of my concerns were summed up in this article by Wade Roush, particularly the ownership of information issue.
Google indexes my web site but Google does not own my web site. From the article:
“The Michigan library, says Wilkin, may do whatever it likes with the digital scans of its own holdings—as long as it doesn’t share them with companies that could use them to compete with Google. Such limitations may prove uncomfortable, but most librarians say they can live with them, considering that their holdings wouldn’t be digitized at all without Google’s help.”
It really looks like this will increase access at low cost, but that’s different — especially in other countries — from no cost. I suppose one could argue that having one copy of a book in one location places prohibitive costs on someone who is not at that location in the current library model, but the larger library network that you can reach via interlibrary loan and co-operative sharing takes care of a lot of that, assuming people know about it.
In short, it’s going to happen. Libraries can play more of a leadership role both in preserviing access to these materials and keeping Google in check when they try to use their massive computing systems and storage banks to increase their own market share for their advertising. Putting this sort of knowledge-is-power power in the hands of a publicly held company [even one that does no evil] which has certain shareholder obligations, is concerning to me.
Posted by: jessamyn at June 3, 2005 08:50 AM