> Actually, one of the big concerns about Google having exclusive rights to
> the digitization of out-of-print works is the price that they will charge.

One of the things I've found interesting about this discussion is the
presumption of the value in these materials. Just as selection and
presentation are the what distinguish a museum from a landfill -- both
are essentially collections of old junk -- the value that libraries
contribute is in how they select and present relevant information.

Mass digitization of orphaned and out of copyright works may prove to
have little value. People find ways to exert ownership over stuff
that's actually worth having, and good ideas have a way of working
their way through the information fabric. I'll bet money that lots of
the stuff that Google has digitized either has or should have been
weeded by many libraries even if there are a few gems in the mix. We
may as well presume that all the web pages created in the mid 90's are
highly valuable and deserving of meticulous curation. Polluting search
results with junk hides the good stuff and is ultimately a disservice.

 On the NGC4LIB list today, a link to a study that questioned the long
tail phenomenon appeared
It raises legitimate questions as to whether making more information
available is necessarily a good thing

I don't know if music downloading behavior is analogous to the
information services that libraries provide, but the article is still
worth a read. Among other things the authors find that in P2P
networks, the tail might be long, but only a tiny percentage of
resources see much use in practice. Now that we're all into feedback
from users, it appears that the popular stuff gets even more popular
while the other stuff doesn't get noticed or used just like anything
that appears on page 113 of your google search results.

Maybe Google will convert guano into gold, maybe it won't. But if the
concern is over monopolistic behavior, privacy, money, and whatnot, it
should be over the vast majority of information resources that people
actually use. A bunch of old books can't be more than a tiny cut of
the action.


Kyle Banerjee
Digital Services Program Manager
Orbis Cascade Alliance
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