Book Review – Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Meanwhile, Google had only just gone public with an IPO in 2004. That year, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Google announced its Publisher Program, which promised to support the same type of search functionality. Publishers willingly signed up, unaware that the Library Project would be announced two months later. The Library Project was ambitious, digitizing titles acquired for collections held at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and the New York Public Library. This was a breathtaking step farther than Amazon, and the information community was thunderstruck as it tried to process the implications of what such an expansion could mean. 

This is the story that is told in Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization by Deana Marcum and Roger Schonfeld (full disclosure, Roger is a regular contributor to this blog). Note the subtitle. This book documents from a library perspective the implications and long-term impact of Google’s move to make a significant corpus of “offline content searchable online” through optimized means of scanning and digitization. The outcome of Google’s ambitious project would ultimately be diminished, due to constraints resulting from extended legal battles, but key library leadership has managed to create the infrastructure needed to sustain and carry on the massive digitization needed. There were significant barriers to that work, as the authors note, despite the fact that “in this story, there are many actors, all of good intentions. Inevitably, it is also a story of limitations and failures to collaborate.” …”

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