Google Books

People are talking about an article that appeared in the Washington Post yesterday in defence of Google Books. One of our librarians, Karen Pardue, sent it to me today. You can read the article on Washington Post Web site.(You may be asked to create a free account before you can access the article.)

The author Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, makes the case that many books published today are only printed in limited runs and that, in the future, many fairly mainstream resources may be hard to access. Because Google Books only provides keyword searching of and limited access to the content of these copyrighted materials, he argues that it should be viewed as a valuable access tool which will ultimately increase the public’s demand for printed resources.

Another way of thinking about this might be the trailers that film companies make available to increase the public’s desire to see the whole movie. In my opinion, the most important component to Google’s new service is the link they provide to “find this book in a library”. In my experience this option is not always as useful as one would hope. Case in point being a search I just ran as a test. I searched Google Books for “San Luis Valley”. I found a book called Minot, North Dakota; Oroville-Tonasket, Washington; and San Luis Valley Project, Colorado–water resource legislation : hearing before the Subcommittee on Water and Power of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, One Hundredth Congress, first session, on S. 641 … S. 649 … S. 1549 … August 5, 1987. When I clicked on “Find in a Library” I was taken to OCLC’s Worldcat database, which is great. But upon entering my zip code I was given only one holding for this book in Colorado. If I weren’t a librarian, I might not realize that this is a Government Document and that many regional and selective depositories (of which my library is one) probably also have this document, but haven’t cataloged it separately.

My point is that I think there is a lot of potential for access to previously inaccessible materials via Google Book. However, I would encourage Google to continue to develop ties with local libraries that lead readers from the Google search page to the more specific sources of information.

Google Away!

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