Saturday, March 15, 2008

Google Book Search API & Library Catalogs

From the Chronicle yesterday - Google Unveils Tools to Integrate Its Digitized Books Into Campus Library Catalogs. I took a look at what the University of Texas did with this and adding the Google Book Search to our catalogs would add value, for sure. I've asked my university library to add this to our catalog and hopefully our unified consortium catalog will do the same. What a real added value service this provides, and the price (free!) can not be beat. Thanks, Google! I can't think of a reason why we would not want to do this.

But I'm still wondering about what this all means. This Lawrence Lessig video titled "Is Google Book Search "Fair-Use?""is an informative video on fair-use, and also explains how 16% of the 18 million books Google plans to digitize are in the public domain (PD). This means that those PD books that have already been scanned by Google are digitally available to our patrons. Having a link from our catalog to those digital books provided by Google will mean that our students will be able to easily find and access those ebooks. That part seems clear to me.

But 75% of the 18 million books are copyrighted, out of print books. And 9% are currently under copyright and in print. So there are three kinds of access Google will grant. Full access to public domain books, the in copyright out of print books will allow at least "snippet" access, and for books which are in copyright and in print, Google will grant as much access as the publishers and authors allow. This is all useful information, and of course more access is always most beneficial.

I'm wondering about other ways in which this might develop. I'm sure that some day these books will all be available to our users digitally, but the economic model is not yet in place and I'm not at all sure how that will end up working (and there's still a lot of digitizing to get done). In the meantime, I'm wondering about other ways that library catalogs might be able to use what Google is providing us with this API.

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