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15.3.12

Google Slows Down


The big Google news relevant to libraries is that Google is slowing down its book scanning project. After scanning over twenty million books in six years, they’re probably just tired. I know I would be.

After six years, the thrill of anything is gone. If you don’t believe me, stay in your current job for six years.

Google books has proven to be popular, with probably many more users than Google Plus, though that’s not saying much. However, there are some naysayers.

One person commented on the article above, claiming that, “Librarians have this delusion that all information can be transferred into electronic data bases.”

Do librarians have that delusion? It seems to me most of the information transferred to databases hasn’t been done by librarians. Elsevier and Google have done considerably more than most libraries put together.

Also, is it even a delusion? All information can be transferred to databases, at least theoretically.

The comment goes on to claim that the “problem is that aside from saving money on storage the new system is technically fragile, jeopardizes privacy, restricts access and makes browsing impossible.”

And here I thought the problem was that so much of the digitized information was just so darned expensive.

I sort of see technically fragile. The comment says that “Electronic data systems are easily hacked, changed and sometimes destroyed. It has already happened to governments, banks and the Iranian isotope separation facility.” Yeah, that’s true. And if those Anonymous people ever set their sites on Ebsco, we’d all be in big trouble!

Then there’s this bit. “And don’t forget as you read something online big brother will be watching – your government, any government, corporation, a teenager having fun or a nosy neighbor. On top of all this since the publishers can control access they get away with charging fees for continued access. This is what librarians have in mind. for us. By contrast once a book is on a shefl and paid fo,r no more is owed to the publisher. Well bound books printed on acid free paper have survived five hundred years of the violent history of Europe. You don’t need a computer to read a paper book. It takes at most a good pair or glasses. Nobody knows what you are reading. Beware the siren song of the electronic libraries.”

I feel like I’m reading Alex Jones or something. Paranoia strikes deep. Into your heart it will creep. Then it will creep into the comments section of the Chronicle of Higher Education. I can’t say I feel terrified by a teenager having fun turning into “big brother.”

The logic is paranoid, but also inaccurate. It’s true that publishers can control access and charge fees for continuing access. However, the next sentence cracked me up. “This is what librarians have in mind. for us.” I think it was the period after “mind” and that solemn “for us.”

I hate to break it to you, baby, but librarians don’t like the way things are going any more than you do. That whole “charging for continued access” is a pain for us all. Librarians are the ones who have to see the bill. Everyone else on a campus just clicks on things and they work.

I’m not the paranoid type. I don’t need to be paranoid, because people really are out to get me. But if I were the paranoid type, I’d be less worried that my Google Books account was hacked by Big Brother and much more worried about a commercial company having such a huge amount of control over digital content and the libraries that supplied it having so little communal control.

Google Books has been a great thing, but how long will it last? It seems Google has more money than it could ever spend, but the company’s only 13 years old. That doesn’t seem like a long enough time to build a track record.

Though what track record Google has developed makes hard to tell the future of Google Books. Will Google Books be like Google Docs or Google Buzz? Will it go the way of Knol, soon to be discontinued? Or the old Uncle Sam search discontinued last year?

Even Google Scholar has been removed from the “more” list and made much harder to find. Google supports stuff until it no longer supports stuff, then it doesn’t.

So if I were to be paranoid, I’d be worried that Google has all these books digitized that millions of people depend on, and because of lawsuits or fatigue or a desire to sell you Google ebooks Google Books becomes the next Buzz.

Then the digitally paranoid might rejoice, but the rest of us would definitely be worse off.

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