Benjamin asked for my opinion on Google Print. I started to reply in the comments, but it quickly grew from a small reply to something entry-sized:
I haven’t blogged on Google Print because I haven’t decided what I think about it. It’s gotten coverage on a variety of librarian blogs, as well as some public radio programs that I’ve heard.
The way I see it, it’s often difficult to find material in books because they aren’t always indexed very well. Unlike many journals, they aren’t available full-text so that you can search the entire book. Some companies are providing books in full-text formats, and there are several models for it, but their emphasis is on new books. I think what Google Print has to offer is full-text searching of old and out of print books. Often these have useful information for modern scholars.
My concern about Google Print is twofold:
1. Copyright — They need to be careful in not stepping over the line of copyright or else the whole project may be tainted.
2. Searching — If I’m doing scholarly research, I don’t want to get 10,000 hits on a keyword search. I’m not sure how Google’s relevance rankings will work for books, but I hope that the search results will be as precise and accurate as a good reference database’s.
I’m keeping an open mind, waiting to see how it all turns out. I don’t want to trash Google Print just because it may step on the toes of libraries. I do hope that libraries will keep the books that are scanned into Google Print, because I doubt our users who want to read the whole book rather than gleaning information from parts of it will be willing to read it on a computer screen or print out the entire thing. On the other hand, our emerging users are more comfortable with screen text than even my generation, so I could be wrong.