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ALA has questions for Google

May 14th, 2009 Posted in Digital Books, Libraries | digg it blank

The ALA office reports that Google has been calling members, seeking 1-1 appointments to discuss the Google Book Search settlement. Once again Google goes individually to libraries, seeking to reassure. The ALA suggests that if a library does meet with Google, it ask some hard questions, and try to get some answers beyond verbal assurances.

Since I have many Google friends, I am inviting them to respond here to these questions from the ALA, which I am reproducing below.

On the topic of equitable access to information, and more specifically pricing, the proposed settlement allows for differential pricing for different categories of institutions for subscriptions, why? The settlement states institutional subscription pricing will be “based on comparable products and services.” Since no other comparable product or service currently exists, how will Google keep from disparities in access to its product if subscription prices are, or become, too expensive? Finally, the Book Rights Registry established by the proposed settlement (and comprised of equal numbers of representatives for the authors and publishers), has been granted the oversight to settle disputes over pricing. What, if any, mechanism would be available to libraries (as primary customers of the product), and individual consumers to dispute pricing?

With respect to patron privacy — what assurances, aside from a verbal commitment, does the library community, library patrons and the public interest have that their privacy rights will be protected? The proposed settlement itself is silent on the topic of patron privacy rights, why? Were the three private entities unable to reach agreement, in their closed deliberations, on a privacy policy?

Finally, with regard to intellectual freedom, the proposed settlement allows Google to omit up to 15% of in-copyright, not commercially available books it has scanned from libraries. What criteria will Google use to determine which books are omitted from the product? Will Google identify the books omitted and provide any explanation as to why? How will Google keep from engaging in censorship as it is conceivable and even likely that both domestic and international pressure will be exerted upon them to censor books?

Hopefully, Google will provide answers to these questions. Of course, there are many more than these.

One Response to “ALA has questions for Google”

  1. Karen Coyle Says:

    Peter, I gathered up the questions that came up in various discussions and posted them here:


    I asked Dan Clancy of Google if we (libraries and G) could collaborate on an FAQ relating to libraries and Google, but he said they could not do so until the settlement had been … settled. I would still like to see a FAQ started for libraries so we can gather up the questions we have and be ready to push for answers when the time comes. Maybe the Archive could host the FAQ?