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Google Book Scans Gain Harvard Appeal

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Three thousand people may not sound like a lot, but it is relatively early in Google’s book scanning endeavor, and that number of Harvard students may be the vanguard of scanned book readership.

I’ve often seen an apocryphal figure of 58 percent cited as the percentage of people who never crack open a book after high school. That same source also claimed one-third of high school graduates never read a book after they graduate.

It’s shades of Mark Twain channeling Benjamin Disraeli, who may or may not have said there are three types of lies, one of them being statistics. But perhaps that 58 percent or 33 percent or whatever figure will increase over time, and that will be a good thing.

The Harvard Crimson said over 3,000 students used Google Book Search, part of the Harvard-Google Project, in September. The project scans books and makes them available through Harvard’s online catalog.

As more works are fed to the scanning machines, the number of readers should increase. Anyone who has ever tried to locate a book in a library to study, only to find it has been checked out, should see why book scanning is a good thing.

Harvard, and the various universities engaged in Google’s book scanning, are the test beds for this. Their populations probably represent a part of the population that does continue reading books after high school and college.

Google has been fought on a couple of fronts with regards to book scanning. Someone with greater knowledge of publishing will have to explain to me why a scanned out-of-print book exposed to the public represents a dire threat to the free world; email me, Authors Guild.

I’m cynical enough to have some issues with some of the things Google does, but book scanning isn’t on the list. More people use the Internet now than ever, so maybe part of the time they spend online will involve encountering books through searches and other avenues.

Or maybe they’ll just keep using the Net for porn. At least the erotica book genre will receive more exposure.

Google Book Scans Gain Harvard Appeal
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