Friday, March 25, 2011

Robert Darnton: A Digital Library Better Than Google’s

Robert Darnton, Director of Harvard University Libraries, comments in the New York Times on the rejection by a federal judge of the Google Book Settlement. Darnton though critical of aspects of Google's role in this project nevertheless argues for the need to build a digital public library where all digital copies are open access:
On Tuesday, Denny Chin, a federal judge in Manhattan, rejected the settlement between Google, which aims to digitize every book ever published, and a group of authors and publishers who had sued the company for copyright infringement. This decision is a victory for the public good, preventing one company from monopolizing access to our common cultural heritage.

Nonetheless, we should not abandon Google’s dream of making all the books in the world available to everyone. Instead, we should build a digital public library, which would provide these digital copies free of charge to readers. Yes, many problems — legal, financial, technological, political — stand in the way. All can be solved. . . .

All major research libraries have digitized parts of their collections. Large-scale enterprises like the Knowledge Commons and the Internet Archive have themselves digitized several million books.

A number of countries are also determined to out-Google Google by scanning the entire contents of their national libraries. France is spending 750 million euros to digitize its cultural treasures; the National Library of the Netherlands is trying to digitize every Dutch book and periodical published since 1470; Australia, Finland and Norway are undertaking their own efforts.

Perhaps Google itself could be enlisted to the cause of the digital public library. It has scanned about 15 million books; two million of that total are in the public domain and could be turned over to the library as the foundation of its collection. The company would lose nothing by this generosity, and might win admiration for its good deed.

Through technological wizardry and sheer audacity, Google has shown how we can transform the intellectual riches of our libraries, books lying inert and underused on shelves. But only a digital public library will provide readers with what they require to face the challenges of the 21st century — a vast collection of resources that can be tapped, free of charge, by anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Full article.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Libraries Respond to Google Decision

From today's Chronicle of Higher Education

Tuesday, a federal judge tossed out the proposed settlement in the lawsuit over Google's vast book-digitization project. Still, research libraries with a stake in that work said they were undeterred. They emphasized that widespread digital access is key to scholars' work, and reiterated their commitment to making as much material available to as many people as possible, whether or not the settlement is revived in some form. And they said they hoped the ruling, by Judge Denny Chin, would galvanize efforts to solve the vexing problem of orphan works, which are under copyright but whose rights-holders are unknown or unfindable.

Some university librarians noted that the settlement's demise has scuttled, at least for the time being, the goal of low-cost library subscriptions to the enormous Google catalog. But they also raised hopes for a legislative solution that would sidestep the concerns about monopoly that the Google settlement raised.

More ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Google goes back to the drawing board

As reported in yesterday's New York Times, the NY Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has rejected the Google Books settlement.

[C]iting copyright, antitrust and other concerns, Judge Denny Chin said that the settlement went too far. He said it would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly” and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners.

Judge Chin acknowledged that “the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many,” but said that the proposed agreement was “not fair, adequate and reasonable.” He left open the possibility that a substantially revised agreement could pass legal muster.

Another chapter begins.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Neil Gaiman on Copyright Piracy and the Web

Here's an interesting video in which Neil Gaiman, best selling author of science fiction and fantasy books, discusses how pirated versions of his works on the internet have increased sales of his print books. And I suspect that his point may not matter much whether it's deliberately making books freely available on the web or having them available through piracy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Europeana, OA Gateway to European Culture

Europeana is a European based initative for locating books, journals, films, maps, photos, music etc. from about 1500 contributing museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. Currently there are more than 15 million items in Europeana. Launched in 2008, and based in the National Library of the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Europeana has the goal of making Europe's cultural and scientific heritage accessible to the public. Click on to search.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Open Textbooks

Yesterday I “attended” a SPARC briefing on open textbooks. The briefing was led by Eric Frank of FlatWorld Knowledge, a provider of open textbooks. This is a new publishing model attempting to alleviate the rising and sometimes crushing costs of textbooks for students. (He cited a Gates Foundation report that listed the cost of books as the #2 reason for students dropping out of community colleges.)

He stressed that within the FWK products there are several levels of choice – read free online, pay a small fee for print on demand, buy a black and white copy, buy a color copy, buy for e-reader, buy an audio file, and more. But all the products they carry are free online, licensed with Creative Commons licenses. They currently have approximately 150,000 student users, 44% using the free online version, 30% buying a paper copy and small percentages using audio books and e-reader versions.

There is also a licensing model for libraries – a license for a bundle of texts for eight core classes, for instance. Students would have access to all formats.

Frank stressed that the publishing end is old-fashioned in that they attempt to attract and compensate high- quality academic authors. Their list of titles is still small – it began with business/management titles and is deepest there, but they are now attempting to add titles for gen-ed required classes – Psychology, Sociology, Chemistry, etc.

Libraries are not usually the decision makers about texts for classes, so there was discussion of the library role in this new model. It was pointed out that libraries play an increasing role in curriculum support and that they are a trusted resource. Libraries are often the most active advocates for OA solutions and most familiar with licensing options.

Librarians in the group expressed some frustration with frequent offers to buy the product in various formats when using the free online versions. It is clear that this is a new model searching for sustainability.

Boston College CSOM faculty member John Gallaugher has published Information Systems: a manager’s guide to harnessing technology, through FWK.

To read more about open textbooks – see Stephen Bell’s recent post.

And, of course, lots of background info in the Wikipedia entry.