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October 05, 2005

How Much Will Google Print Help Users?

Barbara Quint, Apology, Searcher, October 4, 2005. Excerpt:

"I somehow got the false impression that Google was transmitting electronic copies of the books it was digitizing back to publishers participating in the Google Print for Publishers program....Well, back up the truck. Google does not give publishers digital copies of their books. The copies Google gives to the participating "G5" libraries are TIFF or JPEG files containing images of every page, not complete books in a convenient format such as PDF. As for the public domain books, which Google does allow readers to see cover to cover, all reading must be done while connected to Google. So the question arises: With the exception of public domain, e.g., pre-1920s books, how does Google Print contribute to the distribution of book literature? Insofar as a user finds an in-print book from a Google Print publisher, Google will provide links to online booksellers and publisher Web sites. But most of the books on library shelves are out of print, especially those taken from giant research libraries. Those online booksellers may help you find used copies and a connection to the OCLC Open WorldCat "Find in a Library" service could help too. But digitizing millions of out-of-print books might end up swamping the retrieval of in-print books that have a good chance of delivery. In any case, the Google Print delivery routes offend all three of the Web's iron laws of user-friendliness: They're not free; they're not fast; and they're not online. Add one more depressing note: They're not reliable....Who would think that one would ever have to prod Google into broadening its vision? Yet here it is....The only way to make the Google Print project work for publishers, libraries, authors, and, most importantly, the Web users of the world, is to guarantee that what people find online, they can fetch online. Delivery is the key. Otherwise, it could end up worse than when it started. End users searching for the books Google Print presents to them will find traditional sources — publishers and librarians — rejecting their requests. The matchless collections of the "G5" libraries are called matchless exactly because they have what others do not. OCLC's Open WorldCat will do the best it can, but...in most cases Marian/Marion the Librarian will not help. One of the new offers to Google Print publishers made in August allows publishers to register the books they expect Google to find on the G5 library shelves and, when searchers find the books, connect users to publisher Web sites. Gosh, thanks! So when all those out-of-print book requests come in, the publishers get to tell users to go shinny up a pole. Are we having fun yet? I know it's the early days for the massive Google Print project, but it's never too early to do it right. Come on, Google. Give publishers and copyright holders e-books they can deliver. Change the world ... again. I'll gladly write an apology for being wrong about being wrong, if only you make it right."


Source: P.Suber. OANews. (4 Oct 2005) [FullText]

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