Brewster Kahle on What Is Wrong with Google's Book Digitization Programs

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Open Content activist Brewster Kahle summarizes, in this interview with Library Journal, what is dangerous about the digitization programmes undertaken by Google. We recommend reading the whole article.

Brewster Kahle:

Library Journal: You’ve been critical of Google’s library partnerships. What is Google doing right and/or wrong?

Two problems: one is perpetual restrictions on the public domain. Another is that these negotiations are all going on in secret. It shouldn’t take a subpoena to get information from a librarian. But in this new world order, both perpetual restrictions and gag orders are being put in place on libraries by a corporate enterprise. The idea of making all books accessible online in new and different ways is all good news. But if you do this in a way that the materials that have been housed in libraries for centuries are made available only through one corporate interface, that is an Orwellian future.

LJ: Are you surprised to see libraries signing up with Google under restrictive terms?

I’m not surprised that a corporation wants to be the only place someone can get information, and I was not terribly surprised that some libraries went forward with this before they understood how they could do it on their own and how much it would cost to do it for themselves, not only to do the digitization but also to create services around these collections. I was surprised to see more libraries jumping on the Google bandwagon after demonstrating how libraries can do this and after actually doing it with the Open Content Alliance.

Ideally, how should Google Book Search, or any other web-based book service, work?

Tim O’Reilly, who is an adviser to Google Book Search, said it best. He said, simply, book search should work like web search. Look at it this way: Google says it has the right to scan people’s books to create web services, yet it doesn’t allow other people to scan its scans to create web services. I say let’s have the Golden Rule apply: do unto others. Either ask permission before scanning, then you can demand permission from others, or, a better world would be, scan all for navigational purposes but allow other people to scan all for navigational purposes. I asked publishers and OCA members if they would be happy with book search working in this way, like web search, and they all said yes. I asked a Google representative and was told no. So the question is, why? What does Google have in mind?” (