Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Google Digitization & Disclosure

At the end of last year Google announced that it would digitize (part of) the collections of some major research libraries. Lawrence Lessig gave his take on the announcement, plugging his scheme for copyright renewal along the way. A side-effect of Google's (legal) inability to make only books published before 1923 fully available due to the present copyright term that Lessig didn't point out is expressed in this article as follows:
The typical user who finds a pre-1923 source available for free via Google is unlikely to sashay down to the local library for something more recent. That's just life. Google hype to the contrary, blind, wholesale digitization is no more a good thing than buying books based on color. Large research libraries that never weed their collections as a matter of policy end up with lots of outdated, useless material. Join this with blind, wholesale digitization, and it's clear we will soon find ourselves in a world where incorrect, dated information trumps current, accurate information through circumstance.
I did not realize that I currently find myself in a world of accurate information, or at least one in which I may shift the wrongs from the rights. The disclosure movement of Google and the likes, the making available of unparalleled information (sources), does indeed bring dilemmas of the accuracy of the provided information. Adding dated information through digitization might indeed increase the pile of inaccuracy through which we are currently finding a path. On first thought I'd be more worried by search engines making a decision on what's accurate and clearing the path, than letting users decide this for themselves. Not that (internet) intermediaries haven't determined our information consumption in the past, or will stop doing so. But the potential for greater user control is there, even if this needs a lot of critical thinking and (online) correction.

In the meantime Google does not seem to have a real clue on how it will digitize the library collections. At least it has not yet (publicly) give a clear outline of its plan. Google "is being 'coy' about standards and specs; minimums have been given but little to no fixed specs." Maybe Google should digitize books in colour: red: incorrect info - green: correct info. It would save me a trip to the next best search engine.


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