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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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    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    Mass digitization: Good Thing or Bad Thing?

    Publishers are noticeably nervous about the mass digitization projects such as Google Book Search, and - as reported earlier - Richard Charkin dines out on his laptop heist, which was designed to demonstrate to Google staff the difference between opting out (as publishers must, of Google Book Search) and opt in (which publishers would like the chance to do re GBS).
    The owner of the computer had not specifically told us not to steal it. If s/he had, we would not have done so. When s/he asked for its return, we did so. It is exactly what Google expects publishers to expect and accept in respect to intellectual property.
    OK, so publishers (generally) are against it; but what of society?

    O'Reilly Radar recently pointed to the
    Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), [which] has just received a small grant from the Mellon Foundation to study the utility of major mass digitization projects such as Google Book Search, Microsoft Live Book Search, and the Open Content Alliance for scholarship.
    The CLIR proposal reads:
    [O]bservers variously contend that large-scale projects such as Google's and Microsoft's will enable new discovery of literary and other works not currently accessible to the public, will democratize knowledge, and will contribute to the public good in unprecedented ways. Others fear that the information held in these projects will be eventually sold as a commodity, decreasing access to it for the less affluent. Given the extraordinary costs associated with these projects, there may not emerge any competition to Google or Microsoft, and the market will be thus tightly held as a near monopoly.
    CLIR aim to look at digitization and scholarship - in the light of open access and thus with reference to IPR and copyright. The report, and the Collegium to act as a 'long-term advisory group to mass digitization efforts', should be an important arbiter of good (and acceptable by all parties) practice.

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