Google Book Search: The Path To Dystopia?

    November 27, 2006

Brewster Kahle isn’t happy with Google Book Search. As director and co-founder of the Internet Archive, he isn’t the least bit timid in his criticisms, either. “Google is trying to set themselves up as the only place to get to these materials; the only library; the only access,” Kahle reportedly said. “The idea of having only one company control the library of human knowledge is a nightmare.”

Kahle was quoted – more or less – by Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped. Lenssen was working with a video interview conducted by Mario Sixtus, and noted, “please don’t take this fully verbatim, as I took several freedoms to clarify and make the best out of parts I didn’t understand (corrections are welcome of course).” Lenssen’s transcript, however, is good enough for me, and his efforts are appreciated.

According to that transcript, then, Kahle compared Google to a famous dystopian novel. “I mean this is 1984,” he said, “a book about how bad the world would be if this really came about, if a few governments’ control and corporations’ control on information goes too far.” Kahle doesn’t seem to be entirely “against” Google, however.

“There’s a great deal of urgency to build an alternative,” he explained, “one that has corporate interests protected, as well as the public interest. We’re working with Yahoo, Microsoft and the Open Content Alliance, to do digitization that does bring a balance . . . . Balances can be struck, it’s just not being struck by a couple of companies that are going at it now.”

Kahle’s words are turning some rather important heads. John Battelle took note of Lenssen’s transcript, and an “Anonymous Googler” showed up in the Google Blogoscoped “comments” section. “There’s nothing sinister here except to people who are used to extorting money from researchers because old and out of print books are hard to find,” he (or she) wrote. “Helping people find what they’re looking for is what we’re all about: in any language, from any time and place – not just web pages.”


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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.