Here in Austin I attended a remarkable panel on book digitization. With Liz Lawley as moderator and folks from both Google Books and Microsoft's book project (plus one academic), the panel skipped over rights issues to talk about the rest of it: cost, urgency, scope. I started out with a neutral attitude toward Microsoft and ended up writing I HATE THIS WOMAN over and over in my notes. According to her, Microsoft entered the book digitization game to make the search better, because they need to make money and it's all about the bottom line. Funny, I thought Microsoft entered the game because Google got there first and Microsoft's business model is to drive competitors out of business (Netscape). On top of that, she whined about how EXPENSIVE book digitization is, at 10 center per page. Well, if it costs too much, step back and let Google have it.
But what really pissed me off was what she said in response to a smart question. Kevin Smokler noted that she had said there was incredible urgency in book digitization, but what was the hurry -- were people tapping their watches waiting for out-of-print 18th century romance novels to come on line? She answered:
Of course nobody's tapping their watches waiting for, say, Moby Dick or anything.
Surely. Because the Great American Novel wouldn't be something we'd want to access. It couldn't be useful for teachers or schools. Oh wait, it could! It wouldn't be useful for corporate tools, tho. What she thought would be much more important is, wait for it, "Finance For Dummies."
And with that, I'm off to see James Surowecki.