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Differing Perspectives on Book Digitization

A couple interesting stories on book digitization crossed my path this week. The first is an article in EdTech about UW Madison's involvement in the Google Book project.

Google this spring began scanning 500,000 of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's 7.9 million library holdings, including collections on American and Wisconsin history, medicine, engineering and genealogical materials. Once the materials are scanned, people can read the university's public domain books online for free. For copyrighted books, Google will show a few lines of text and provide links to find the material in libraries or for purchase in online stores.

UW-Madison is among 27 university and public libraries, including Harvard, Stanford and the New York Public Library, that allow Google to digitize parts or all of their collections. Other libraries, however, have chosen not to jump on board with Google or Microsoft, which also runs a digitization project.

According to an article in the New York Times

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...

"There are two opposed pathways being mapped out," said Paul Duguid, an adjunct professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. "One is shaped by commercial concerns, the other by a commitment to openness, and which one will win is not clear."