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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Holding culture to ransom

    It seems that it is OK for Microsoft to condemn Google Book Search (see earlier post) while at the same time working with the British Library to digitise and publish great works from its collection ("High-quality digital editions, free to your desktop").

    Is it still OK for Microsoft to condemn a project that creates greater access to e-books, while its own UK project locks users into its own new operating system? The Microsoft/British Library Turning the Pages 2.0 is available only to PC users with Internet Explorer on Windows Vista or Windows XP SP2 with .NET Framework version 3 (that's quite a small number), and not to Mac users at all. You want to view your heritage? Vow allegiance to Microsoft first.

    Perhaps if I quote from The Library's Action Plan, it will be apparent why I think life under this particular commercial thumb is inappropriate.
    "Libraries have traditionally existed to collect and organise information, make access to knowledge more democratic...

    Our Vision

    • We exist for everyone who wants to do research - for academic, personal or commercial purposes
    • We promote ready access to our collection..."
    Make no mistake, I am only too aware of the budget cuts with which the BL is threatened (there is a link to a petition to the left of this posting), but I am not convinced that this course "between serving the public and generating revenue" is as clever as Mark Chillingworth suggests (IWR 233, page 27).

    What do you think? Should Microsoft dictate British Library policy?

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