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This New York Review of Books Blog Post is another article/post by Professor Darnton, Director of Harvard University Libraries, on book digitzation, libraries, and related topics.

Google represents the ultimate in business plans. By controlling access to information, it has made billions, which it is now investing in the control of the information itself. What began as Google Book Search is therefore becoming the largest library and book business in the world. Like all commercial enterprises, Google’s primary responsibility is to make money for its shareholders. Libraries exist to get books to readers—books and other forms of knowledge and entertainment, provided for free. The fundamental incompatibility of purpose between libraries and Google Book Search could be mitigated if Google were willing to contribute some of its data and expertise to the creation of a Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).


All major research libraries have digitized parts of their collections. Since 1995 the Digital Library Federation has worked to combine their catalogues or “metadata” into a general network. More ambitious enterprises such as the Internet Archive, Knowledge Commons, and Public.Resource.Org have attempted digitization on a larger scale. They may be dwarfed by Google, but several countries are now determined to out-Google Google by scanning the entire contents of their national libraries.


Even if Google refused to cooperate, a coalition of foundations could provide enough to finance the DPLA, and a coalition of research libraries could provide the books. By working systematically through their holdings, a great collection could be formed. It would conform to the highest standards in its bibliographical apparatus, its scanning, its editorial decisions, and its commitment to preservation for the use of future generations.

Today’s blog post by Robert Darnton “is drawn” from “The Three Jeremiads” an article that will be published in the January 13, 2010 issue of the New York Review of Books.


1. Yesterday we mentioned and linked to Robert Darnton’s original article about creating a national digital library.

2. We also included a link to an analysis by Roy Tennant of Darnton’s proposal/vision for a national digital library along with another proposal/vision from writer and TeleRead founder, David Rothman who has been writing about a national digital library since 1992.

3. We also linked to a column with some very strong (to put it mildly) negative comments about the Google Print Initiative that were published in The Guardian yesterday. The column was written by Robert McCrum, who writes the “On Books” column for the newspaper/web site.

4. In the section about other book digitization projects, we were surprised not to see a mention of the HathiTrust that has welcomed several new members in the past few weeks.


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