Welcome to Peter Batke's GOOGLE BOOKS: Google Book Search and Its Critics

My e-mail is:batke_p@hotmail.com

Carl Spitzweg, Bookworm detail. FULL VIEW

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One preambulatory note: Google Book Search and Its Critics is a polemic. Thus it is a discussion between me and my perception of three other entities: Google, the essays of Prof. Darnton and the essays of Prof. Grafton. These essays are required reading for this book. The last chapter provides the links.

Generally, I am pleased with Google; they seem to have the drive to set great things into the world. My first encounter with computers was in 1970, IBM mag card, I was 23 at the time. I started programming a few years later. I see Google as a worthy continuation of the work of all of the people who have been shaping computing since the 60's and 70's. I am impressed not with Google's perfection but with their drive. I would like that it could remind me of myself back then, at the cusp of great change, or at least of my imagination's imaginings.

I am not pleased with the essays of Grafton. I find a sense of entitlement in his essays about computing, a charter that he has earned in other fields and now can apply where he will from digital humanities to UK funding for higher education and whatever else. Of course he is the defender of the order "in periglio." There is no reason to throw a life preserver into the water after him; there is natural buoyancy. But someone should go on record with a resounding thumbs down. I have taken that on.

A more interesting case is Darnton. Darnton is a player in this game, and it would be nice to win him over. At Harvard Libraries he can have a real impact. There is some indication that he is using his policy setting power to increase the electronic work of HUL significantly. He still has nothing consistently good to say about Google. He finds himself quoted often in the mainstream press that "Google's main drive, responsibility, concern yada yada is to make money for its shareholders." Sad that journalist should always pick out that quote. Some implications arise from that statement, but I will not go for a lengthy analysis. Rather I would like to maintain that Google has a drive, and Google has taken responsibility and concern for much more than making money for its sharholders. It would be just as if one would say that Harvard main drive is to pay the salaries of its Professors and Custodians. While technically true - most would not work there for free - their acceptance of a salary does not tarnish their work. I hope Darnton can outrun all the unhelpful quotes that will follow him through the coming polemics.

I am happy about one thing. I don't know why, and I don't know under what circumstances Darnton's publisher changed the cover for "The Case for Books." Gone is the silly e-reader with the stupid wires to be replaced with a slick new i-Pad without wires. Still wrong (!!) since that means you can't read in the sun and must buy from the mothership, but one does not expect editorial assistants in the City to grasp the finer points, nor does one expect the Director of HUL to have hands-on experience. Yet I feel vindicated in making fun of the first version and hope that at some point Darnton will realize that many academics are getting great productivity from these devices, and there is hope for all. (especially for digitized books).

I also feel that I forsaw the lethargy of the courts. While some were expecting great things in the Fall of 2009, it will be Spring 2011 soon and still no peep out of the District Court that has made it into Herald Tribune. Or did I miss something.

Settlement rejected, March 2011.

Feel free to e-mail your reactions.