Friday, October 9, 2009

Google books editorial in NYTimes

Sergey Brin wrote in the NYTimes today about the Google book deal in an op-ed piece called "A Library to Last Forever. " He makes a good case for a deal of some sort and gently addresses a few of the concerns that have been raised. His argument for the deal has two aspects: one, implied by the title, that the deal will protect books forever in a new kind of library that is disaster proof and, apparently, Google has solved the digital preservation problems (forever is a long time.) The other aspect is access. The book deal will make a century's printed output easily avaiable to all. Sounds good, but I don't know much about most of what he was talking about. The one thing I know something about--access to library collections--was mentioned in one sentence that is just completely wrong.

"Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice — fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks."

What the hell is he talking about? There is no need to fly and hope. He must know that you have at least one other choice: use your computer to 1. look up the book in WorldCat to see what libraries have copies 2. email your local library to use its inter-library loan service to get the book for you. He can't be ignorant of this--Google has a deal with OCLC that joins Google Book Search and WorldCat--so why did he say "fly" and "hope"? One effect of this: it makes me wonder if the other things he says are just as fishy as this. I don't know anything about those other things, but seeing what he said about the one piece I do know about makes me doubt everything else he says.

No comments:

Post a Comment