Thu 21 November 2019
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Google maps the way to a digital library
Publishers are still struggling with the audacious Google Books initiative. But something constructive could come from this chaos.

This blog has often addressed the question of intellectual property rights as they apply to books and the complex issues surrounding copyright – usually in the context of Google's mass digitisation programme. It's an ongoing story, part of the reshaping of the literary landscape in the aftermath of the IT revolution of the 1990s. Mention Google, of course, and you can stray into a no man's land of polemic but there are signs that, with the passage of time, reason is returning to her throne.

One of the most subtle commentators on this subject is the historian Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library. He surpasses himself in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, in a reprint of a talk he gave at the beginning of October addressing the possibility of a US national digital library. No one who's concerned with these matters, in the States or globally, should miss it.

Starting from Thomas Jefferson's "Knowledge is the common property of mankind," Darnton makes a swift tour of two centuries of printing,publishing and literacy. He concludes with the ringing claim that Americans "can close the gap between the high ground of principle and the hardscrabble of everyday life ... by creating a national digital library".

For the full article

The Guardian


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