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Criticisms of Google Book Search

Recently, there have been a couple of criticisms of Google Book Search that go beyond the knee-jerk arguments we hear from time to time.

In a post on the ACRL blog (Siva Vaidhyanathan Questions Google Book Search, by Marc Meola, ACRLog, April 23rd, 2007), Meola describes a presentation by Siva Vaidhyanathan at the Drexel University Libraries’ Scholarly Communication Symposium. Siva asks some pointed questions of Google and its library partners. I was particularly struck by this thought:

At one point, Vaidhyanathan compared Google Book Search to the Human Genome Project. Here, he claimed, a for-profit company named Celera demonstrated it could do the work better and faster, but governments declined, recognizing that this information should not be privatized. Now Vaidhyanathan became animated, stating that it should be the same for knowledge and asking, “since when is expediency one of the core values of librarianship?”

In a post at the AHA blog (Google Books: What’s Not to Like?. by Robert Townsend, American Historical Association Blog, April 30, 2007), Townsend notes the problems he found with Google Book search included poor scan quality, faulty metadata, and “truncated public domain.”

Over the past three months I spent a fair amount of time on the site as part of a research project on the early history of the profession, and from a researcher’s point of view I have to say the results were deeply disconcerting.

For specifics about Google Book Search and government documents, see: Need Full Access to Gov Docs in Google Book Search.

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