Most of human knowledge and its best expressions still rest in books on the shelves of libraries around the world. In this digital age, there’s a need to preserve and extend that knowledge. Google’s intention to digitize the world’s books can connect most people with the best knowledge. It would greatly help users to get eclectic knowledge, which has never been so easy to search in books in libraries. According to the Huffington Post’s excerpt from Googled by Ken Auletta, “Looking for an out-of-print book or a scholarly journal? Google is seeking to make almost every book ever published available in digitized form. Schools in impoverished nations that are without textbooks can now retrieve knowledge for free.”
This project is designed to discover books, not for online reading. It allow users to explore excerpts from millions of books without being misguided by book cover or library catalog. Authors are also benefited as many users discover them on Google Books and buy them. And their books would also reach previously inaccessible readers. Their small books from past, may become hits, when they reach individuals in the ‘Long Tail’. The basic concept of the long tail is that you can make more money by selling less stuff to more niche audiences than by selling popular stuff to the masses. For example, Netflix finds that, in aggregate, unpopular movies are rented more than popular movies. In his predictive account of change in the book-publishing world, Kevin Kelly wrote: “First, works on the margins of popularity will find a small audience larger than the near-zero audience they usually have now. Second, the universal library will deepen our grasp of history, as every original document in the course of civilization is scanned and cross-linked. Third, the universal library of all books will cultivate a new sense of authority.”
As Siva Vaidhyanathan has said in one of his lectures,” Instead of promoting access to knowledge, it raised even more questions: the lack of competition, increased monopolization, and the increasing privatization of the information ecosystem.” Many people do feel that Google is also receiving many benefits by scanning millions of books like information about users, books digitized database and advertising revenue as well.
And Due to this copyright infringements, Google is battling a legal case to prove its digitization of books is actually legal from past 8 years. But I feel that Google has good intentions behind it. They are not selling or giving away full copies of the material. They are not even showing any advertisements on Google Books. And society also benefits from having a catalog of all written works easily searchable by anyone. Stopping this digitization is like closing all the libraries because authors don’t get paid when someone check out their books. By digitizing the books, Google has just taken offline world to online.
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