Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NYU students ask university to join OCA

NYU should digitize library content, Washington Square News, October 24, 2007.  An editorial arguing that New York University should join with the Open Content Alliance, not the Google Library project, to digitize the books in the NYU library.  Excerpt:

Since 2004, Google has been making thousands of books available to readers - including college students - online; Microsoft has also joined this effort. Both work with major university and research libraries, covering the costs of book scanning while requesting a non-exclusive agreement in return. Once a library has signed on, its scanned materials become solely accessible through either the Microsoft or Google search engines.

The program, which counts universities such as Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford as participants, has recently come under criticism from a non-profit group called the Open Content Alliance.

OCA raised concerns voiced by many other libraries: By trusting either Google or Microsoft to scan, store, and allow access to these libraries' content, the public would end up being dependent on the decisions of either corporation. While access is free today, what would stop either company from charging an access fee for its contents tomorrow?

The Open Content Alliance, and the like-minded Boston Library Consortium, counters this oligopolist vision by arguing for a consortium of universities and private contributors who would create, finance and manage a similar book-scanning effort. Theoretically, this diffuse membership would prevent the type of unilateral decision-making some fear from Google or Microsoft.

This option is not without its costs. While Google and Microsoft scan a library's contents for free, OCA members must pay up to $30 per book.

We believe this is a price worth paying....Such a database would better serve all NYU students by saving on research and check-out time while, more significantly, expanding each student's access to content by freeing it from its physical quantity and location....

We recognize that costs must be investigated before NYU can or should commit itself to either system. Whatever the numbers, we urge the administration to digitize NYU's library content.