On April 28, Langsdale Library hosted a teleconference entitled "Google Book Search: Its Impact on Scholarship and Libraries".
The program discussed Google's Book Search feature that allows people to search the full text of many books. There is some controversy over this service because some publishers claim that Google is violating their copyright by scanning copies of their books without permission.
It was very intersting to hear a description of the breadth of this program. Google is working with several libraries to scan their collections. In addition, they get text for many new books from publishers. For books in the public domain, Google Books will display the full text of a book. For books under copyright protection or of questionable copyright status, they only display "snippets" of a book, basically a search term and maybe the sentence in which it was found. Most of the books from the libraries were out of print and of uncertain copyright status, so Google would not know who to approach to get permission to display the full text even if they wanted to.
A few of the insightful comments had to do with the impact the Google book scanning project would have on scholarship. Up until now, there were many books that were really only findable by academics. They were located in academic libraries where schalarly researchers would know how to find them, but they were largely hidden from the general public. Google Book search will change that, bringing more of these hard to find books into the awareness of the public. What impact this may have is uncertain.
Another question this brought up was the impact on libraries. Since most of the books in Google book search are of uncertain status, at least for the moment it this project may not have much impact on libraries. Indeed, it may increase library use in the short term because for the books scanned from a library, Google will provide a link to find that book through a service called Open WorldCat. This will let users enter their zip code and find a nearby library that owns a book.
Posted by Michael to ub at 4/12/2006 01:15:00 PM