Monday, January 21, 2008

Peter Brantley on Google Books

There is a very brief interview with Peter Brantley, Director of DLF, in the January 25 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required). In this interview he answers a series of questions that identify his concerns about the Google Book project.

He identifies issues about the resources required of the libraries that participate, and that the cost can keep the library from other activities. He hopes that "a court [will] determine once and for all that it is fair use to digitize a copyrighted work and make a snippet of it publicly available." He notes that Google is creating content for its own use that can potentially be made into some sort of commercial service, and that its processes and standards are opaque to the user and the community. He expresses concern that the fuzzy status of orphan works put them into a category where someone will end up making money off them when he thinks that shouldn't be allowed. There's nothing there I'd argue with.

He also points out that the quality of the scans is not consistent. That's followed by this:

Q: Shouldn't Google be commended for helping to preserve library books?

A. The company is not preserving books. It is creating an archive for Google's own purposes.

I'm of two minds when it comes to responding to this. I do not know why so many people assume that this project is preserving the volumes -- Google does not say that; they say that they are creating access copies. The participant institutions know this, and we knew this went we entered into the project. More people need to keep pointing this out.

The other side of this is that IF WE DO WANT "preservation quality" digital objects that represent these books (argue amongst yourselves about how to define what that means or if such objects can actually exist), that's a an additional project with additional costs and time and wear and tear on the volumes to digitize them. And that is unfortunate.

I'm going to end up looking like a major Google apologist because I keep pointing out when folks have things wrong about the project. I just want to set the record straight when I can, so our participation can be judged (pro or con) based on accurate information.

1 comment:

Peter Murray said...

The Chronicle article refers to a blog posting by Peter Brantley, "Book search will not work like web search".

Thanks for posting the clarification on preservation copies versus access copies. It is good for us to keep hearing that.