Putting Google Library Into Historical Perspective

from the information-is-a-good-thing dept

Reader Jon writes in with a link to a fascinating New Yorker article that really puts Google's book scanning project into historical perspective. While there are all sorts of ongoing legal scuffles about the efforts to scan and make books and information more widely available, when viewed in the context of history, the legal arguments look even more ridiculous. The benefits to making content more widely available and more easily accessible are so big that it almost seems crazy not to do it. The article goes through all the struggles cultures have had over the ages just trying to classify and organize all sorts of books and information to make it usable -- and here we are with the tools and ability to go beyond everything that's been possible in the past... and we're stymied by a disagreement over copyright law? That just seems sad.

Filed Under: book scanning, google library, history, information
Companies: amazon, google, microsoft

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  1. identicon
    Kev B, 6 Nov 2007 @ 8:58am


    This is simple greed. There is no logical argument to wrangling over copyright law that I can see. As long as Google buys a copy of the book they propose to scan and doesn't let users arbitrarily upload works then what is the issue.

    The only real issues is speed and scale of distribution. A library retains a one-to-one relationship between a copy of a book and a borrower. Google can distribute the same book to literally millions of people concurrently.

    The biggest part of this that I don't understand is why mass distribution and availability is a bad thing. For certain texts I can see the argument carrying more weight. Reference texts for example. You don't "read" a reference manual. You look something up in it. In that case it is highly unlikely that a person would buy the book after viewing it on google. But a novel is a different proposition entirely. The vast majority of consumers, myself included, want to sit in a chair, under a tree, on a beach, in bed, in the bath, on the can etc. and have a bunch of paper glued together in our hands. It's part of the therapy of reading. I would be prepared to wager that as much as 90% of all fiction readers would not want to read novels on their computer.

    So perhaps a compromise could be reached. Novels/fiction or novel-style non-fiction (ie. not reference manuals) should be freely distributed online through google library. Reference texts etc. are in a subscription area where either google or the publisher, or both, can charge a reasonable subscription fee and recoup money that way.

    In this day and age, most people will surf the net for an hour rather than pay $90 for a reference text and will likely get approximately equivalent quality.

    This is just one more example of resistance to change in a very backward thinking industry.

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