ERIC Number: EJ847410
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun-12
Reference Count: 0
Google Books Mutilates the Printed Past
Musto, Ronald G.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n39 pB4 Jun 2009
In this article, the author discusses a mutilation that he has encountered involving Google Book Search. That massive text-digitization project, working in collaboration with several of the world's most important library collections, has now made available, in both PDF and text view, tens of thousands of 19th-century titles while it awaits the results of a legal settlement to determine whether and how it will make available tens of thousands of 20th-century works. Meanwhile Google Books offers scholars all the pitfalls and benefits of using the research results of the 19th century: Much of the fiction, essays, and nonfiction of that century is no longer of much critical or entertainment value. But thousands of pages of primary-source materials in their original editions--the great historical enterprises of that century--are now available at one's desktop with a few clicks of the mouse. While that is no substitute for primary research in the archives or in manuscript collections, it's truly a revolution in research on previously edited and published documents. For the history of late medieval Naples, with its relative paucity of physical archives and its dependence on later editions, Google Books is a godsend. However, in its frenzy to digitize the holdings of its partner collections, Google Books has pursued a "good enough" scanning strategy. The books' pages were hurriedly reproduced: No apparent quality control was employed, either during or after scanning. A random spot-check of other Google-scanned books has yielded some better results, but the general drift is clear: good enough for one's mutilated view of the past, rushed through the scanning process so that Google could lay claim to as many artifacts of the cultural past in as short a time and with as small a budget as possible. The author contends that Google Book Search promised to bring the world's archives to people's computers. Instead, too often, people are getting the digitally mutilated remains.
Descriptors: Archives, Electronic Libraries, Video Technology, Online Vendors, Research Opportunities, Research Projects, Duplication, Reprography
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A