Posted October 19, 2007 3:20 pm by with 8 comments

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Research Libraries have turned down Google and Microsoft’s offers to digitize their book collection. They instead agreed to let a nonprofit distribute their content. The libraries didn’t like the restrictions that going with Google or a commercial organization may place on their collections. They instead signed on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit organization that will keep the information more accessible. The organization has more than 80 libraries and research institutions, and focuses on works that are out of copyright.

Google restricts what libraries can do with the digital content – including only letting them access the collection through Google search. They also restrict how much of the content can be downloaded. The libraries however don’t have to grant Google exclusive rights to scan books.

The New York Public Library, and other libraries at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford have agreed to Google’s terms. From those libraries Google expects to scan 15 million books.

The Boston Library Consortium of 19 research and academic libraries throughout New England will work with the nonprofit instead to scan their 34 million volumes. There are some spectacular collections – like the personal library of John Adams that’s housed at the Boston Public Library.

Google wanted to digitize the Library of Congress but they also decided to partner with the nonprofit. The man behind the Open Content Alliance is Brewster Kahle, who founded the Internet Archive in 1996. It’s on the web at and it’s a favorite site where you can see historic versions of web sites. I pulled up a copy of Marketing Pilgrim from 2005  so you can see how far MP has come in just two years!.

The libraries pay to have the information scanned and collected by the Alliance. They are willing to fund the project rather than get paid by Google to turn over their collections. Google however, doesn’t profit or run ads on Google Books.

Microsoft and Yahoo are members of the Open Content Alliance, but Google so far is not. Microsoft doesn’t restrict distribution of the books.

Here’s a telling quote:

“You don’t want any for-profit company having control of the world’s knowledge,” said Doron Weber, a program director at the Sloan Foundation, which has made several grants to libraries for digitization.

This week the Open Content Alliance, the Boston Public Library, and the Woods Hole library, announced they will start scanning out-of-print but in-copyright works that will be available on a digital interlibrary loan system.

Normally I’m all for Google making content available, but in this case, it makes more sense to keep the information totally open. I’m for the nonprofit.

  • This is very good decision making.

  • That link to the old site is like having your mother pull up an embarrassing photo from your youth. My how far we’ve come! 😉

  • Great post Janet. I wonder why Google has yet to jump on board with the O.C.A.

  • I am agains Google indexing academic and research content, thanks to Google it will be SEO spammed too, and it will become harder for students to find materials for their researches, etc. Some non profit organization should take over, and index only certified publishers and university libraries.
    That will prevent SEO spamming the index and librarians wont have to master SEO to get their content properly indexed and well ranking.

  • More people need to says no to large corporations. This is a good move to keep public and research content out of the control from a corporation that is purely for profit.

  • Good move and I think the quote says it all. Some things need to be open to everyone and not under the control of any one or group of companies.

  • Librarians should not be that conservative I tend to think first, but Google’s restrictions about what libraries can do with the digital content is rather strange.

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