Detail map of Mountain View, California, United States,Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

A: Mountain View, California, United States, B: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Robert Darnton on "Google and the Future of Books"


On February 12, 2009 cultural historian, book historian, and librarian Robert Darnton, of Harvard University, published an insightful and critical article, "Google and the Future of Books" in the New York Review of Books. From it I quote:

"How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only beginning to come into view? The question is more urgent than ever following the recent settlement between Google and the authors and publishers who were suing it for alleged breach of copyright. For the last four years, Google has been digitizing millions of books, including many covered by copyright, from the collections of major research libraries, and making the texts searchable online. The authors and publishers objected that digitizing constituted a violation of their copyrights. After lengthy negotiations, the plaintiffs and Google agreed on a settlement, which will have a profound effect on the way books reach readers for the foreseeable future. What will that future be?

"No one knows, because the settlement is so complex that it is difficult to perceive the legal and economic contours in the new lay of the land. But those of us who are responsible for research libraries have a clear view of a common goal: we want to open up our collections and make them available to readers everywhere. How to get there? The only workable tactic may be vigilance: see as far ahead as you can; and while you keep your eye on the road, remember to look in the rearview mirror." (quotations from the beginning of Darnton's longish article, accessed 01-28-2009).

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