Will tomorrow’s library be a bookstore?

It seems pretty obvious that libraries and books in general are going online, perhaps to stay.   While there is still a love of the printed word and probably always will be, two projects are underway to scan, digitize, catalogue and store all books or as many books as possible online with very different approaches.

Google started its online book venture by making deals with five libraries including the New York Public Library and the Oxford Library in Britain to digitize their collections and in turn provide them with a digital copy of their works.   The Internet Archive, best known for their WayBack Machine which catalogs older versions of websites also has deals with libraries to digitize their collections.

The archive currently has over 1 million books available in digital form for all to use for free and hopes people will download them and save them themselves so the works will exist in perpetuity.   The Google plan is different.

While Google digitizing the works for free and giving a digital copy back may have seemed like a good deal to the libraries originally, some feel that they actually had other intentions which are only becoming apparent now.

“The restrictions are severe of what it is the libraries can do with the copies they get back,” Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle told Democracy Now, “so they’re pretty much useless to the libraries.”   He went on to argue that not only will Google make money from these books by creating a subscription library, “they will be the sole organization to control access to these works.”

Kahle points to a recent settlement reached in a class action lawsuit between Google and the Author’s Guild and the American Associaton of Publishers which he feels will effectively give Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books.   This is because Google gained the digital rights in perpetuity to out-of-print works originally published after 1923 and still under copyright in addition to the public domain works which no one owns and Google has exclusive access to thanks to their deal with the libraries.

Kahle sees danger in one company effectively becoming the world’s library as opposed to several different online sources for digitized books: “If they want those books to be available to people, they can have it in their search engine and rank it high. If books are things they don’t want to have available, I don’t know, for any reason that corporations might want to do that, they can take it effectively out of the library.”

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