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Google and the Future of Books

In 2004, Google came up with a new search engine to revolutionize the internet. They wanted to scan books online and put them in the search engine for everyone to find and read easily. However, in 2005, Google was sued by the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers for copyright infringement. The lawsuits were quickly settled and allowed Google to expand its library to many universities and public libraries.

According to Bruce Sterling of Wired Magazine believes that despite the growth of this specific database as well as the usage of it by the public, we would be better off without it. I, on the other hand, believe that it is a necessary tool and that everyone should be able to use it for their own purposes. The point being that it makes doing research, for example, so much easier.
Sterling sees the Google library as pointless and necessary. In his article “Ink-slinging wretches, lacking a business model, scrabble for my survival”, he rants about how information got around between some of the great minds of the 18th and 19th centuries. He talks about Thomas Jefferson James Madison sending countless letters and books to each other and explaining their views on them. Sterling was quite interested in the battle between Voltaire and Rousseau where they just argued about every possible subject that went on in their day. Sterling does bring up a good point in that back in 18th century France, one needed a royal privilege in order to publish anything. Sterling says that the only people who could obtain a privilege were the rich and powerful. On top of that, they had to pass a rigorous process of not only getting the privilege, but also passing the censor’s approbation where everything that the person wrote were put into the words of either the censor or people of royalty.
In Robert Darnton’s article “Google and the Future of Books”, which was the reason why Sterling wrote his article, he too talks about the enlightenment period as well as most things that Sterling talks about, but into greater detail. He states that the libraries want everyone to be able to achieve gaining every possible resource imaginable. For example, at the Boston public library, it says “Free To All” on top of the entrance to tell people that anyone is able to use the library. In the Trustees’ Room in the New York Public Library, it has a quote by Jefferson that says, "I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man." Jefferson believes that the true path lies in being able to better understand the world through books and articles and what not. In fact, when the founding fathers constructed the constitution, they made sure that even though the authors and writers should get something for their work, the access to their periodicals to the public should be a higher priority.
It is necessary for at least the public libraries to “encourage learning” as Darnton puts it where as Google is just in this to make more money. Even if that accusation is true, Google is still trying to at the very least help students and other people by giving them a free way to research. One reason why people need Google to accomplish this is the reliability of the internet. Since anyone is able to post their opinions about anything for everyone to see, it is vital to find the right information whether it supports their view or goes against or even if that information is true or false. By now Google should be a widely known company that can and should be trusted with the information given to them from other libraries and universities. Think about all of the research databases that the University of Minnesota has in order for its students to learn about anything at a scholarly level.
Near the end of the article, Darnton explains that all of the periodicals and writings should be digitalized, but at the same time they need to be democratized like the writings during the enlightenment period. Darnton says it can be done by “rewriting the rules of the game, by subordinating private interests to the public good, and by taking inspiration from the early republic in order to create a Digital Republic of Learning.”
Sterling sees only a monster that no one can defeat in Google books whereas Darnton has found a way to best the monster. It is something that has to be done in order for the world to better its learning.

Comments

First, I agree with your opinion that the google source should be allowed. Not everyone has the time to go to a library, so an online database would be something that would utilize current technology to benefit society. The idea that royalty is related to books is a bit antiquated. Everyone remembers someone telling them that reading books can do no harm. It will do no harm to make those books readily available to anyone. As you said, the founding fathers wanted to make public availability a high priority, and google can accomplish this.
I think that the google tool emphasizes academic books more than the books you read for entertainment. Like you said, it will make researching much easier and time efficient. You made a reference to the University of Minnesota library system, and I think that this is a good parallel to the google search. From personal experience, it is easier to access the University of Minnesota online database to find sources than to go to a library and attempt to find the sources. With one of the biggest time consuming parts done, it is easier for one to focus on doing the actual reading and writing for their paper. I believe that convenience will be an overriding factor in popularity. College students will be the biggest beneficiaries of this. As you noted, it’s necessary to better educate the world around us.

Overall, I found your position to make a lot of sense and I agree with it. I thought it was very clever how you brought the articles by Bruce Sterling and Robert Darnton together and how they tied our founding fathers to Google wanting an online book search engine. First, I would like to point out that I believe we do need to have books online. It is much easier to do research as well as read books for our own enjoyment if we were to get them online. I personally know that as a college student I don’t want to be hauling fifty pound textbooks all over the place. Going back to how you tied the two subjects together, I really feel that it is difficult to argue a case against. It would be interesting to read more into the specific case between the Author’s Guild and Google to see just how they state their case against them. You mentioned Sterling’s article in the beginning of your paper and, according to you, he says that we would use the database but we would be better off without it. I do not know how it is possible to argue against something that would make it so much easier for a lot of people. I think that this is just another step that we are taking as our technology increases and things become more computer based. It is something that is going to and is happening right now, we might as well just allow it to occur rather than raise pointless questions about it.