Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Digitial libraries

Google's plan to put online works from libraries at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, University of Michigan and New York is quite remarkable. We are getting closer to making the Macintosh "1984" commercial a reality. (You know the one where the woman in orange jogging shorts throws the hammer, smashing the totalitarian society.)
Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg puts it this way:
The Google announcement signals that the virtual library has become a reality, even if it will be a while in the making. It will take a decade to digitize 15 million books and documents from the Stanford and University of Michigan libraries, and more time than that before most other research collections are online. And although readers will have full access to books in the public domain, they won't be able to view more than a few pages of books that are still under copyright.

Michael Gorman, dean of library services at California State University, Fresno and president-elect of the American Library Association, isn't so sure this is a good idea:
The books in great libraries are much more than the sum of their parts. They are designed to be read sequentially and cumulatively, so that the reader gains knowledge in the reading. A good scholarly book on, say, prisons in 19th-century France goes well beyond simply supplying facts.

We suggest reading Dan Gillmor's book, "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People," to get a sense of where this is all heading. The book is online.