Friday, May 06, 2005

Europeans to Counter Google Print Project

Yahoo! News reported 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." For Europeans, the fear is that the continent's contribution to the pillars of recorded knowledge will be crushed by a profit-oriented California company — and may end up presenting a U.S.-centric version of the world's literary legacy.

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. Failing to digitalize — declared the heads of state in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Hungary in an appeal to the
European Union — is to risk that "this heritage could, tomorrow, not fill its just place in the future geography of knowledge."

The French are paranoid, but in this case their paranoia is good for all of us, because now there will be additional effort spent digitizing European literature, to go along with Google's effort, and soon we may have online access to all of the world's literature.

This may cause concern among librarians, but even they need not fear, because the volume of that information will be so great that we will need their help in organizing it, and helping us find what we want.

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