Nothing's Ever Good Enough for You Uppity Harvard Folk, Is It?
Harvard University, which eagerly signed onto Google’s controversial book scanning project in 2005, isn’t so keen on the project now that the company’s agreed to settle the lawsuits questioning its legality. Troubled by uncertainties in the settlement, Harvard will not participate in Google’s in-copyright book scanning effort–even if Google’s recent $125 million settlement with the Authors Guild and an alliance of five major publishers is approved.
“As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher education community and by patrons of public libraries,” University Library Director Robert C. Darnton said in a message to library staff. “The settlement provides no assurance that the prices charged for access will be reasonable, especially since the subscription services will have no real competitors [and] the scope of access to the digitized books is in various ways both limited and uncertain.”
Which is not to say that Harvard doesn’t believe that universal access to the world’s books is mission-critical for universities. It clearly does, and will continue to work with the company to digitize books that have fallen out of copyright. But until the quality of the book scans improves (see sample below) and Google (GOOG) sets a clear pricing scheme, the university can support, Harvard will be providing the company only with out-of-copyright works pulled from its Depository collection.