Harvard’s Involvement in Google Library Project

Katie Hafner’s NY Times article: At Harvard, A Man, a Plan, and a Scanner offers a profile of Sidney Verba, Director of the University Library at Harvard that focuses on Harvard’s partnership with Google (in this case, a “pilot project”) to scan books held in the university’s library.

From the article:

“It’s [Google Print/Google Book Search] become much more controversial than I would have expected,” Mr. Verba said. “I was surprised by the vehemence.

For the time being, Harvard has confined the scanning of its collections largely to books in the public domain and limited the initial scanning to about 40,000 volumes. But it hopes eventually to scan copyrighted books as well, depending on the outcome of the legal dispute. “The thing that consoles me,” Mr. Verba said, “is Google’s notion of showing only the snippets, which have everything to do with what’s in the book, but nothing to do with reading the book.”

The article also offers a bit of background on how Google first contacted Harvard and the University of Michigan about the program.

Quick comment:

+ While the academic and library research value of the Google Print project is massive and Google should be commended, it’s important to remember that Google’s plan to digitize this massive amount of material is about selling books (in various formats) versus gaining accessing to them via a local library or interlibrary loan.

This was made clear in an a comment made by Google’s David Drummond in a comment made by Google’s David Drummond, in a recent Google Print debate.

Mr. [Allan] Adler [a vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Association of American Publishers]said Google’s contention that its search program might somehow increase sales of books was speculation at best.

“When people make inquiries using Google’s search engine and they come up with references to books, they are just as likely to come to this fine institution to look up those references as they are to buy them,” he said, referring to the Public Library.

To which Google’s Mr. Drummond [Google’s general counsel] replied, “Horrors.”

I would imagine that students/faculty at the “Google Five” libraries will eventually be able to view the full text of the books (versus snippets only) that are digitized at their university directly from their school’s online library catalog. Other libraries are already working to provide direct links to the full text of public domain materials from their catalog.

Btw, Barbara Quint new Info Today article: Books Online: The Fee versus Free Battle Begins, offers an in-depth look at Google’s, Amazon’s, the Open Content Alliance, and other book digitization projects.

The article devotes a good portion of space talking about mircopayment and book rental plans that have been announced or discussed by Amazon.com, Random House, and Google.

Today’s SearchDay article about ebrary offers a look at a service that allows users to search and read (full text) more than in-copyright 20,000 books online and pay to print or copy material. I think this method is something will see from others in the future.

See Also:
+ Breaking Down The Google Print 5 Libraries
+ The Digitization Of The Library

Postscript: The ethics of the Google Book Search/Google Library Program was discussed on National Public Radio this weekend. You can listen to the segment here.

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