All Things Considered, February 21, 2009· Google wants to give you access to its huge database of scanned, out-of-print books, but the company is going to charge for it. Robert Darnton, head librarian at Harvard University, says the deal violates a basic American principle — that knowledge should be free and accessible to all.
When I first saw the headline, I thought, “So what? What major online content provider actually gives their content away for free? Academic and public libraries pay premium prices to get access to paid-content databases, only to turn around and offer it to the public for free.”
After hearing what the librarian had to say, however, I can see his point. Those paid-for databases are already a commodity, but if Google might in fact provide us with the “future of books” (when we’ve overspent our use of trees and can no longer print physical books), it will be an travesty if our only access to libraries will be through commercial corporations such as Google.
Why do authors (or their lawyers), the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. get so uptight about their content being offered over the internet but yet are perfectly fine with them being offered through brick and mortar libraries? Do they somehow think that because something is digitized they lose all control and copyright over it? I would never read a novel sitting in front of my computer screen unless someone forced me to, but if I could preview a book, or just fine a quote from a particular page online, that would be fantastic. Would I pay for it? Definitely not.