Opinion On the face of it, it seems like a great idea. Have every single book in the world digitized so at the click of a button you can read translations of Plotinus, read Suetonias’ work on the Caesars, or get over excited over Ovid.
So why has the world plus its dog got over excited about Google’s plans to strike a deal with authors and publishers to scan, scan and scan again? A virtual library online is a fantastic idea and can open up the world’s literature to people who would never see it otherwise.
It’s a great idea. The trouble is, it’s not a public library. It’s a Google library and puts way too much power into the hands of a single corporation. That’s why government authorities in the US and Europe are concerned, and why we should all be concerned too.
We can easily discount bleatings from Microsoft and Amazon about Google’s scheme. They probably wish they’d thought of it first. But like Google, they’re corporations too and it’s all about competition, and ultimately money.
You can, to some extent, also take issue with the different wings of government whingeing about Google’s plans. They aren’t going to spend billions of dollars organizing a mass scan of the world’s digital documents. They might have wished they’d had the idea too, but hey why spend billions on education when you can better spend it on armaments and stupid initiatives which just waste public money?
There’s an element of jealousy and there’s probably a bigger element of vested interests. How dare a company do what we could do?
There is an easy answer to the whole problem. Rather than sniping at each other, the corporations and the governments could all cooperate and work together to produce a digital library which is open to all and really is a contribution to our worldwide civilization. Google, of course, would have to drop all this faux spiritual stuff about it not being evil, and abandon attempts to monetize the bright idea. What about it, guys?