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RE: Google Print - Peter Brantley in Chronicle of Higher Ed

Let's say that a library holds one of only five remaining print 
copies of a book, and the book is in the public domain.  Now 
let's say Google comes and makes a digital copy of that book. 
There were five copies, and now there are six copies.  If Google 
decides to provide further digital (or print) copies to the 
general public at a price, has the public experienced a net gain 
in access, or a net loss?

Google's detractors say the public has lost access -- that, 
indeed, the library in question has "given away" something that 
rightfully belongs to the public, and allowed Google to "sell it 
back" to the public.

But it seems to me that what Google has done is provide a net 
benefit. Before Google digitized the book and made digital copies 
available for purchase, the public had access to five print 
copies.  After Google digitizes the book, the public still has 
the same level of access to the original five copies -- plus the 
option of buying a digital copy, if anyone wishes to do so.  The 
public has gained something, and has lost nothing.  Even if 
Google charges $1,000,000 per digital copy, or if it decides to 
lock up its digital copy and not make any additional copies for 
anyone, the public has still lost nothing.

Can Google make money this way?  Yes, if they sell enough digital 
copies to recoup their investment.  Is there something wrong with 
that?  I can't see what it might be, though I'm open to 

That said, I do think it's great to see the Open Content Alliance 
giving Google some competition on this front.  The beautiful 
thing about public-domain material is that anyone who wants to 
get into the digitization and distribution game can do so.  The 
more the merrier.

Rick Anderson
Assoc. Dir. for Scholarly Resources & Collections
Marriott Library
University of Utah