Friday, August 28, 2009

Google Book Search - Is it The Last Library?; Register, 8/29/09

Cate Metz via Register; Google Book Search - Is it The Last Library?:

"Geoff Nunberg, one of America's leading linguistics researchers, laid this rather ominous tag on Google's controversial book-scanning project amidst an amusingly-heated debate this afternoon on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.

"This is likely to be The Last Library," Nunberg said during a University conference dedicated to Google Book Search and the company's accompanying $125m settlement with US authors and publishers. "Nobody is very likely to scan these books again. The cost of scanning isn't going to come down. There's no Moore's Law for scanning.

"We don't know who's going to be running these files 100 years from now. It may be Google. It may be News Corp. It may WalMart. But we can say with some certainty that 100 years from now, these are the very files scholars will be using."...

Predictably, Google Book Search engineering lead Dan Clancy takes issue with The Last Library characterization. He acknowledges that some of the works Google has scanned will never be scanned again. But he's adamant that although Google has a 10-million-book head start - and a monopoly-building boondoggle of a settlement with authors and publishers - others will compete.

"I don't view Google Book Search as the one and only library," he said. "I don't think it should be and I don't think it will be - in part because, remember, a library is about accessing information, not just accessing books. Libraries were created because books were where information was in the past.

"Libraries are about information, and...Google is not the only book-scanning activity in existence today. There will continue to be other activities. And the internet provides all sorts of information that are linked together in all sorts of ways."...

Though he wouldn't say how much Google has spent scanning books, Clancy admitted it wasn't cheap. "It's a lot," he said. "If this was just tens of millions of dollars, we wouldn't all be siting here debating this. Microsoft would have kept scanning. And there would be much more incentive to do this.""

No comments: