Monday, February 02, 2009

Google & the Future of Books

Interesting article from The New York Review of Books, Google & the Future of Books.

"How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only beginning to come into view? The question is more urgent than ever following the recent settlement between Google and the authors and publishers who were suing it for alleged breach of copyright. For the last four years, Google has been digitizing millions of books, including many covered by copyright, from the collections of major research libraries, and making the texts searchable online. The authors and publishers objected that digitizing constituted a violation of their copyrights. After lengthy negotiations, the plaintiffs and Google agreed on a settlement, which will have a profound effect on the way books reach readers for the foreseeable future"

I also liked this quote: "One of my colleagues is a quiet, diminutive lady, who might call up the notion of Marion the Librarian. When she meets people at parties and identifies herself, they sometimes say condescendingly, "A librarian, how nice. Tell me, what is it like to be a librarian?" She replies, "Essentially, it is all about money and power.""

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for yet another interesting link. I had not heard of the “Republic or Letters” concept before, and imagine the actual writings from past visionaries carry more weight than pseudo-mythology which has grown around them. I wonder which and/or how today’s celebrities will be mythologized in the future.

With this said I’m not sure Google’s drive to free literary content is 100% altruistic. In my view it might be yet another front in the struggle between hardware (infrastructure providers) vs. software (content providers) which has raged for the last decade or more. I think society has yet to come to terms with technology which allows reproduction/theft/liberation of digital art for nearly zero-cost, ignoring royalties which often seem exorbitant to the disenfranchised.

Google’s precipitation in this struggle is interesting, as they are not a traditional hardware company, and might not intuitively side with either software CEO’s in declaring “every OS will soon come with a free computer” or hardware CEO’s declaring “every computer will soon come with a free OS”. Google attack on copyrights seems to be a declaration that they are part of the infrastructure, and are not a content creator. From a pragmatic standpoint this might be explained by Google’s inability to profit on content ownership, but ability to profit by directing people to available content.

I am still interested when and how this struggle will end. Will both content and infrastructure become free (as in beer) to everyone? Or will one side dominate, and will music, movies, images, literature, and education once again become limited to the rich? Strange days indeed.