Google's is the only model for digitising books
Have you ever tried converting vinyl or tapes to CD? Ever tried transferring video tapes to DVD? It’s a nightmare. Imagine doing this on an industrial scale. It would cost millions.
So I’m surprised whenever I hear opposition to the Google Books Library project. The project’s aim is to scan (mostly out-of-copyright) books and make them searchable online. So as if scanning the books wasn’t hard enough, you then have to use optical character recognition so the words can be ‘read’ by a computer.
It costs millions and takes decades.
But publishers are so upset by the plans they have set up their own ‘Open Content Alliance’ which is a not-for-profit organisation. They’re annoyed that Google might make a profit from the system by placing adverts alongside online books.
These publishers are probably worried that Google will eventually charge for content. In which case they don’t get Google’s business model. Google makes billions of dollars from its tailored advertising, which props up many of its not-for-profit businesses (like the consumer versions of Google Earth, Google Desktop, GMail). It’s unlikely that Book Search will ever directly make Google any money, let alone cover its costs.
Adverts alongside the books seems to me the least intrusive and most cost-effective way of getting these books online. The alternative is to hope for donations from big-money philanthropists, who may not have a huge interest in paying for the conversion of foreign-language or niche books.
Monopolies aren’t a good thing. But Google is leading the way in this technology, as with many others. And book publishers should get on board.
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