Monday, June 04, 2007

NPR Science Friday segment on digital libraries - UPDATED

Update: Google has stated that
they don't do exclusive scanning deals with university libraries.

Last Friday, NPR's Science Friday featured a fascinating debate on digital libraries with Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg, and Michael Keller of Stanford's library (Keller is working with Google on its library scanning project).

The real meaty part of the discussion is in Brewster's call for a book-search that works like web-search. Google's otherwise laudable book-search program is marred by an indefensibly greedy mistake: Google won't let anyone get bulk access to the public domain works in its index, not even for scholarly purposes -- and Google won't let its university partners do deals with any of Google's competitors.

Web-search benefited because anyone was allowed to index it. If the first company to index web-pages had insisted that the sites in its index shut out the competition, Google wouldn't even exist, and we'd all be searching with Lycos. Google has been the immense beneficiary of an open field for search, and it's that field that Google is seeking to foreclose in the book search world.

I am a huge supporter of the ethic of indexing books, but Brewster is right to call Google out on this. For a company whose motto is "don't be evil," it's pretty outrageous to set out to strangle competition in book search in its cradle. MP3 Link

posted by Cory Doctorow

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