Friday, December 17, 2004

Yet Another Article Praising Google's Digital Library Initiative

This article warns academic libraries to "prepare for the digitization"
of online collections. It seems to be typical of the paranoid take on
the future of libraries: that somehow we're going to be marginalized
by technology. On the contrary, I firmly believe that the library
Renaissance is coming!

Check it out, from Gartner Research:

Carol Brey-Casiano (ALA President) on NPR Commenting on Google's Project Ocean

ALA’s president does a fine job fielding questions from relatively clueless NPR reporter.

Click to listen to the story.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

A Good Article about Google's Project Ocean from TechNewsWorld

Click here for good description of the Google project.  


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Irony of the Digital Age

Think about it:  When the publishers discovered the possibility that by converting them to an electronic format they could charge per use of their “books,” what incentive was left for them to still publish books at all?

I firmly believe that if there was a way that publishers could have mounted some sort of tracking and timing device on books so as to make us pay for the amount that a book, or a set of books is used, they would have done it.  Obviously, though, there would have been no way that libraries, attorneys, or any book owner for that matter, would agree to buy something like that, or agree to have their current collections retro-fitted for this type of arrangement.  The development of the internet and full text online searching presented them with a powerful motivation to shift the way they sell their “books.”  By converting them to electronic format, they can now sell them to us as subscriptions and make us pay premiums for volume of usage!

That shifting of the paradigm for them has created an interesting dilemma for us.  We, as consumers and researchers, want things that are better and new; and computers are both of those things.  But since we see them as additional tools in the research arsenal, publishers are seeing them as an entirely new reality: a cheap way of selling, and a lucrative way of converting the “ownership” of information into a fee, or a lease of it.  Essentially, the end result will be that we will re-purchase everything that we already own in hard copy (and more) all over again!  Now that’s a good deal for publishers.....


Google Bets Big on Bringing Libraries to Web (From NYTimes)

Google Bets Big on Bringing Libraries to Web

December 15, 2004
Filed at 9:04 a.m. ET

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc. said on Tuesday it
would digitize some of the world's most important libraries
in a bold effort that could profit the company by
attracting more viewers to its site -- and its ads.

[If you are a subscriber, you can find the full text of the story below:]

Searchblog's announcement about Project Ocean

John Battelle's Searrchblog carried an announcement and good discussion of Project Ocean. Comments from Harvard's librarian (at the end of the article) are telling: His defensiveness about his commitment to continue collecting books is sad.

Books Are Dead?

The thing that gets me about the whole notion that books are dead is the underlying presupposition that somehow books are "old fashioned" and, therefore, obsolete.

In my opinion, this is a crock of whoey. It is true that books are old technology; but just because a technology is old, doesn't necessarily mean that its obsolete. Look at the wheel: its been around for centuries, and just about the only thing that's changed are the way the wheel is made. It is a "terminal technology," that is, one that has evolved to the end of it's logical development. It can't really be improved upon.

So, too, with the book. It is a technology that is perfectly adapted to contain, preserve and distribute information. Books that were printed 400 years ago, providing they haven't been burned, soaked or otherwise abused, are just as fresh and usable as they were on the day they were printed. The bindings usually go before the pages. A book preserves the information that the author has created in the order s/he created it, and nothing short of mutilation will disturb that order. A book requires no intervening technology for operation. You simply open it up in proper light and it works. The only upgrade that may need to be performed on it may be re-binding. It is easy to read and a snap to transfer. It may take a few days to get a book from one coast to the other, but not much more than that!

Am I saying that computers aren't useful? By no means. I simply mean to say that computers aren't replacing books. They can't because they really aren't a competing technology. Just because computers can display letters and words, there is no reason to make the logical leap that "books are dead." Computers can display paintings, yet no one (that I'm aware of anyway) is proposing that "art is dead." Computers can certainly do many wonderful things that books can't, but the reverse is also true.

The main thing that computers can do that books can't is that they can index and sort the content of books in ways that formerly were unfathomable. But once a computer is used to identify books, articles, etc., users usually aren't content to end there: they will usually look for a hard copy of the item. They'll either print it out or go to the library or bookstore and obtain a copy of it.