Google hitting the books
Traditional library research may go the way of the typewriter thanks to a new alliance between Google, universities and libraries from across the world.
Google Print, split between Google Publisher and the Google Library project, is undertaking the exhaustive task of doing for published material what Google Search has done for the Internet, making every page ever written fully searchable through books.google.com. That sociology paper on the impact of Karl Marx on modern society just got a whole a lot easier, since students can now actually find those printed sources without scouring the stacks.
Google Print complements the existing research methods available to sleep-deprived badgers.
Library Express, available to any UW-Madison student, lets students have books sent directly to any of the libraries on campus, allowing them to simply walk in and pick up a book previously
only available in Massachusetts. With Google Print, a student can page through a digital copy of the book, verifying that it already contains the info they were searching for, before they order it.
So far, five of the leading libraries in the world have signed on to having all or part of their collections digitized'Stanford, Harvard, the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library and The University of Oxford.
With this offering Google could also solve a problem facing the general public. In 'A Risky Gamble with Google,' one-time UW-Madison instructor Siva Vaidhyanathan wrote, 'If you are not part of a university community, you can't do much research. Most public-library catalogs are still rather pedestrian.'
Google is making these vast university libraries at least partially open to the public. However, there are shortcomings to this paradigm shift.
UW-Madison professor and Director of Library and Information Studies Louis Robin said, 'It depends on the topic, it depends on how skilled the individual is as a searcher and whether or not he or she even knows what kind of possibilities there are to find out there.'
As with all digital media, the ease of plagiarism is a major concern. After all, if it's sitting on a website, why not just highlight and file-copy?
This issue is addressed at Google Book's frequently asked questions page: 'We disable the print, cut, copy and save functionality on all pages displaying book content' and 'of course no downloading is possible,' hampering those would-be slackers out there.
With this service, Google expands its ever-larger powerbase, moving from the purely digital and into the analog, allowing students unprecedented access to information from the up-to-the-minute blog to hundred-year old texts.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter