Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, February 15, 2008

Google Library Project a boon for books

Charles Edward Smith, A Few Thoughts on the Google Books Library Project, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, January-March 2008.

... About ten years ago, while writing a dissertation, I also started research on an article that CAUSE (now EDUCAUSE) published in 1999. It was no easy task because the Internet at the time had just begun to show its promise. Nonetheless, performing my first real research on the Internet for that article provided a window through which I could see at least some small part of the future.

I had heard of problems at San Francisco's main library when it introduced hundreds of computer terminals to facilitate Internet research. So, I did something we all take for granted today, which was near magic to me back then: I searched the Internet for the San Francisco Chronicle. Surprisingly, it had a homepage. Then I searched for topical articles, found one, and printed it out—and then printed out some more, obtaining just the information I needed. And, I had the information in my hands without a trip to the library, searching for articles on microfilm, or any of that. I glimpsed the future for a moment, and it was thrilling. ...

Those early lessons on the potential of the Internet and digital content not only have never left me but serve as a touchstone when things (as they are wont to do) get complicated. Google's initiative will not make books obsolete; it will make the information in them more widely available.