Saturday, December 12, 2009

Unsettled: Questions about the Google Book Search Settlement | Peer to Peer Review; Library Journal, 12/10/09

Barbara Fister, Library Journal; Unsettled: Questions about the Google Book Search Settlement Peer to Peer Review:

"The most striking change is that the agreement covers a much smaller universe of scanned books, only those published in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia or registered in the US copyright office. Jonathan Brand, author of the third update to the aptly-titled Guide to the Perplexed, estimates "perhaps as much as 50% of the titles in the research libraries partnering with Google are not in English; and most of these foreign language titles probably were published outside the U.S. and were not registered with the Copyright Office."

Other issues that remain problematic in this amended settlement were nicely summed up in a series of posts at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deep Links blog, all of them related to core library values...

At this point I am as ambivalent as ever about Google's extraordinary "moon shot." From the start, I was concerned, as Rory Litwin was, about the transformation of libraries' collections, developed over decades, into a monopolistic commercial venture, one that depends on lowering privacy barriers to function. I was hopeful, back then, that it might establish a new understanding of fair use that would be of benefit to other digitization projects. I didn't foresee the development of a registry that would enable unprecedented exploitation of books—the majority of published books—that linger in an uncertain copyright limbo.

I was then and still remain skeptical that GBS will transform the way most people tap into the knowledge found in books. For scholars who mine vast research libraries for obscure nuggets, it holds promise, and the limitations of poor scanning, inadequate metadata, and now the exclusion of most works in languages other than English are of serious concern. But for the undergraduates I serve, ones who find our academic library of 300,000 volumes intimidating, its sheer size is actually a drawback.

As Ranganathan said, the library is a living organism. I'll leave the Panglossian vision of the universal, final library to others and get back to tending my own garden."

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