All Books and All Knowledge: Coming Soon to <i>Your</i> Computer
By Michael Stillman
It had to happen. It may have suddenly dawned on you one day, like a light bulb above a cartoon's character's head, when you were searching the web. Someday, all knowledge, all information, every book will be available to you right there in your home via the internet. That day may yet be off on the horizon, but it now seems to be just a matter of time.
This may be a slight exaggeration, and we are certainly not there yet, but for those whose specialty is books and the knowledge they possess, an announcement last month took us one giant step closer to that day.
From my perspective, it looks like there are two 800-pound gorillas battling to determine who will provide (and control?) the world's knowledge. Those combatants go by the names of Microsoft and Google. Score one for Google. If there is one entity standing in the way of Microsoft controlling the world (again a slight exaggeration), it is Google. Today, Google has thrown open the door to the vast world of information locked behind the covers of books, and none of us, you, me, libraries, educational institutions, will ever be the same. However, as we will see, this flood of information may be too great for even the likes of Google and Microsoft to control. It's time to take a look inside.
Google threw open the door with its announcement of the expansion of "Google Print." Google Print is the process by which Google is making the vast amount of knowledge contained within books available to the public. "Google's mission," they state, "is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." You don't get much more ambitious than that. Here is what they're doing specifically with regard to books. They are creating digital copies of the full text of vast collections of books and making them available to you online. If they could, they would probably offer every book in the world to you free of charge. However, copyright laws prevent that, so we need to break their offerings down between those which are copyrighted and those which are not (primarily old material whose copyrights have expired).