Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web

Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.

The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.
Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form. The Open Content Alliance, by contrast, is making the material available to any search service.

Google pays to scan the books and does not directly profit from the resulting Web pages, although the books make its search engine more useful and more valuable. The libraries can have their books scanned again by another company or organization for dissemination more broadly.
It costs the Open Content Alliance as much as $30 to scan each book, a cost shared by the group’s members and benefactors, so there are obvious financial benefits to libraries of Google’s wide-ranging offer, started in 2004.

Many prominent libraries have accepted Google’s offer — including the New York Public Library and libraries at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. Google expects to scan 15 million books from those collections over the next decade.
But the resistance from some libraries, like the Boston Public Library and the Smithsonian Institution, suggests that many in the academic and nonprofit world are intent on pursuing a vision of the Web as a global repository of knowledge that is free of business interests or restrictions.

No comments: