Harvard director Robert C. Darnton said in a statement to his librarians not to join Google and their book scanning project. Quotes:
“As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries”
“the scope of access to the digitized books is in various ways both limited and uncertain”
This is a discussion I look forward to. At Harvard they are concerned of how they can use scanned books by Google. Now when the issue of copies and copyright are about to hit the bookbusiness I really hope for the level of the debate to rise. So far the book business have only recited the movie and music business in discussions of how to tackle the new situation.
The book industry is completely different from the music and movie business. In the book world, there exists libraries. I regard libraries as one of the absolute cornerstones in a free and developed country. There is no way in being able to overplay the importance of libraries. Access to knowledge is a human right as far as I am concerned and we should all do whatever we can to get the knowledge out there to as many as possible. With that in mind, what should the solution be for scanned books?
If one only thinks about non-fiction books I see little reason not to make all books ever written and make them available free of charge to anyone that wants to read them. And not only that - every nifty little app that can make reading/researching/remembering and so on - should be applicable on these scanned books. Just as an example: the “Places mentioned in this book” - application that is available in Google Book Search, example here, is fantastic. Just imagine what it could do with research. Cut and pastin, see similar books on a subject and so on. All these kind of apps and APIs should be made available for a future digital library. And it should not cost anyone a penny.
I see a lot of benefits of a completely free digital library of all the knowledge produced by humankind ever. In the digital era there is absolutely no reason why a kid stuck in a refugee camp outside Al Khurtum with an old Pentium PC with 56.6 K modem shouldn’t have access to the exact same top notch library as the kids with summer house in The Hamptons.
In the digital world there is often one site that rules them all. It’s like that in almost every part of the digital domain. It will be so in the book world too. As it looks now, Google has the upper hand. My suggestion to the book industry is to build a digital free for all library of all non-fiction books ever produced. There are a lot of people out there that evidently really are hell bent on putting up every music piece ever recorded and every movie ever done for free for download or streaming. When books starts to show up in millions in scanned format I am sure that hundreds and thousands of people will start thinking of ways to make these scanned books available for the public. The book industry should try and make these peoples efforts the book industrys effort. Do not copy the music and movie industrys choice and battle these people.
As for fiction goes, I think the above applies pretty much to that too. Only that I think that for Non-fiction maybe it would be better if someone like the United Nations handled the library instead of say Google or any other company that apparently do anything China tells them to as long as they can do business with the red giant.