Google’s plan for world’s biggest online library: philanthropy or act of piracy?

Google has already scanned 10 million books in its bid to digitise the contents of the world’s major libraries, but a copyright battle now threatens the project, with Amazon and Microsoft joining authors and publishers opposed to the scheme.In recent years the world’s most venerable libraries have played host to some incongruous visitors. In dusty nooks and far-flung stacks, teams of workers dispatched by Google have been beavering away to make digital copies of books. So far, Google has scanned more than 10 million titles from libraries in America and Europe – including half a million volumes held by the Bodleian in Oxford. The exact method it uses is unclear; the company does not allow outsiders to observe the process.Why is Google undertaking such a venture, so seemingly out-of-kilter with its snazzy, hi-tech image? Why is it even interested in all those out-of-print library books, most of which have been gathering dust on forgotten shelves for decades? The company claims its motives are essentially public-spirited. Its overall mission, after all, is to “organise the world’s information”, so it would be odd if that information did not include books. Like the Ancient Egyptians who attempted to build a library at Alexandria containing all the known world’s scrolls, Google executives talk of constructing a universal online archive, a treasure trove of knowledge that will be freely available – or at least freely searchable – for all.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/aug/30/google-library-project-books-settlement

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