Saturday, May 07, 2005

A European Counterpart to Google's Book Project

From the AP's Paris bureau:

The world according to Google? Europeans have long bemoaned the influence of Hollywood movies on their culture. Now plans by Google Inc. to create a massive digital library have triggered such strong fears in Europe about Anglo-American cultural dominance that one critic is warning of a "unilateral command of the thought of the world." [...]

Google's ambitions are grand — if a bit more modest than the hostile corporate takeover of the tiller of world literature that many critics seem to be imagining.

The project, announced in December, involves scanning millions of books at the libraries of four universities — Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan — as well as the New York Public Library and putting them online. It will take years to complete.

So great is the concern that six European leaders have jointly proposed creating a "European digital library" to counter the project by Google Print, as the new venture is known. Other countries are expected to come on board.

The idea was actually first conceived of earlier this year by the president of France's national library, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, in an article he wrote for Le Monde (no longer available online). Jeanneney expands on his thoughts in a book he's releasing called "Quand Google défie l'Europe" ("When Google Defies Europe"). [I would prefer définir]

At this point, the Euro-library proposal is nothing concrete and it would be best if they could work together with Google to move forward on digitizing European books (and in this case other countries besides France are interested) since there is a certain absurdity in the idea of libraries competing with each other.

This concept may provoke a certain visceral reaction from many Americans considering that many of us think very little about the French, but the idea that a search engine monopoly has many downsides from a variety of points of view. The idea of one company being the de facto broker of the internet is something to be concerned about.

If you can read French, Hervé Le Crosnier has an interesting response to the Jeanneney proposal.