Wednesday, December 22, 2004

There has been a good deal in the news recently about how Google is going to scan millions of books and put them on-line for free. This is certainly a very good thing and will make matters much easier even for those of us who hold more library cards than credit cards. However, the books that will be on-line will all necessarily be out of copyright and so will not include anything that is really up to date. This does have some disadvantages of which we have already had a taster when debating with sceptics. Because old books are going to be much more easily available, we can expect internet scribblers to use them as authorities even when they are completely superceded and inaccurate. This has already happened with the Internet Infidels library that contains various 19th century anti-Christian rants mascarading as history. These are constantly pointed to by sceptics when they are asked to justify their assertions about scientists being burnt at the stake or the Church saying the earth is flat. So it is likely that Google will end up privileging out of date material over current scholarship simply by making the out of date stuff more easily available to armchair researchers.

Of course, Google's initiative is an overwealmingly good thing but I fear we will all have to get used to pointing out that it does not mean there is now a substitute for actually trudging around the library stacks looking for the latest scholarship.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Google is also going to be searching OCLC's database of library catalogue records, the largest in the world. So it will also be pointing people to more recent works, though they'll have to go to a library to get them.