Google Won’t Dominate Book Search

    October 23, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Despite the hubbub generated by a New York Times report, the world of book digitization doesn’t start and end with Google, or even the participation of Microsoft and Yahoo in the Open Content Alliance.

Some libraries won’t choose to go with one of the massive Internet players for book scanning, as the New York Times noted. But the alarmist suggestion in the piece that one company could dominate the storage and distribution of public domain books appears unfounded.

We contacted Gary Price, whose knowledge and experience in library matters enlightened the topic greatly. He commented to some extent on the matter on his Resource Shelf blog, after a brief chat with WebProNews.

In brief, there are many digitization projects in place. No one organization should be able to control the playing field. Some efforts predate Google and the OCA’s forays into scanning.

Gary expressed surprise that the Times made no mention of Project Gutenberg, which has been digitizing content since 1971 (36 years for those scoring at home.) He also mentioned the Online Books Page at the University of Pennsylvania, listing over 25,000 books.

“It’s one thing to scan books, but another to make them ‘findable’,” said Gary. Digitization is just one point in the process. Organization and quick access pose significant challenges, too.

Even with its resources and skill, Google can’t become a chokepoint for public domain works, due to the duplication of efforts that have taken place. Gary offered World Public Library, an aggregator of 500,000 works, as another example of why fears of Google Book Search could be greatly exaggerated.