You want a hot discussion? Put librarians, Microsoft, Google, and Bob Stein from the Institute for the Future of the Book on a SXSW panel to talk about issues surrounding book digitization (and call the panel “Revenge of the Librarians”). An hour wasn’t nearly long enough for the conversation – and the diverse audience proved that the issues surrounding digitization aren’t limited to a small segment of the population.
Starting with the ideas of what happens after books are digitized and what the impact of a shrinking pool of knowledge might be, the panel started by discussing the elephant in the room (let me say that it was refreshing to see open back-and-forth dialogue between the panelists, unlike the normal nicey-nice stuff you see): Google’s book-related programs — Microsoft’s project isn’t online yet, so escaped detailed scrutiny. Dan Clancy, of Google, explained the various components of the initiative.
The goal for Google and Microsoft (other than making money, and that’s what corporations do) is to build indexes of authoritative works that will provide resources during search. To do this effectively, they need to have a lot of books digitized. This is an expensive and time-consuming process.