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Old 05-05-2009, 05:19 AM   #1
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Battle of the scans : is Google winning?

I had recently the opportunity to compare two scans, one from Google Book Search, another from Gallica (French National Library) and I could not help remarking a big quality difference. The Google product was clearly the best, the other one hardly usable and I could not help wondering how to explain this difference.
The thread in French language is here:
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...252#post447252

Looking at the news today, it seems that Google made good use these past years of a technological secret.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-10232931-76.html

Can Gallica and other national European libraries now catch up? Some millions books later, Is the "battle of the scans" over? Google won?

Last edited by roger64; 05-05-2009 at 05:30 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:21 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by roger64 View Post
Can Gallica and other national European libraries now catch up? Some millions books later, Is the "battle of the scans" over? Google won?
Google is spending its own money on the scanning process and so has a strong incentive to find ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. The national libraries are spending other peoples' money and probably wont be rewarded or punished regardless of the outcomes of their projects. So I predict Google will continue to scan books faster and with higher quality. But the wonderful thing about digital information is that there needn't be winners and losers since the books can be shared between Google, the libraries and individuals without limits. So as long as someone scans the books and makes them available, everyone will win.
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:34 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by epiphany View Post
But the wonderful thing about digital information is that there needn't be winners and losers since the books can be shared between Google, the libraries and individuals without limits. So as long as someone scans the books and makes them available, everyone will win.
I'd like to believe it too.

What makes me unsure is this secret. Looking backwards from now, a lot of effort from the national libraries during the previous years seems wasted. Quite a friendly behaviour. ..
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Old 05-05-2009, 06:49 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epiphany View Post
But the wonderful thing about digital information is that there needn't be winners and losers since the books can be shared between Google, the libraries and individuals without limits. So as long as someone scans the books and makes them available, everyone will win.
You dont really think Google is doing this because they are so friendly? I'd rather see national libraries (w/o any need to make profit) scanning books then Google (wrt profit).
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:05 AM   #5
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I'd rather see national libraries (w/o any need to make profit) scanning books then Google (wrt profit).
Even if this means there are fewer books scanned and they are of a lower quality as roger64 described?

Of course Google is scanning books to make a profit but that is what will incentivise them to provide large numbers of high quality books. Just like profit motivates them to provide me with my search engine, email, home page, RSS aggegator, maps and a host of other great products.

Let me ask you, what will motivate the national libraries to provide a better service than Google?
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:10 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epiphany View Post
Even if this means there are fewer books scanned and they are of a lower quality as roger64 described?
In the long run all books will be available. Lower quality is a problem, but a problem that will solve itself in the long run.

Quote:
Of course Google is scanning books to make a profit but that is what will incentivise them to provide large numbers of high quality books. Just like profit motivates them to provide me with my search engine, email, home page, RSS aggegator, maps and a host of other great products.
And just like profits motivates them to e.g. restrict access to some products, to do whatever they please with your data, etc
I dont doubt their quality - I doubt that (in the long run) we will get the same service, accesibility, etc from Google then we would from libraries. If book-scanning is not feasible any more Google will simply drop it. If some books dont make profit, there is no guarantee that they will continue to host them. There is not even a guarantee that they will continue to provide any book-related service.
Now imagine them getting a monopole ...

Quote:
Let me ask you, what will motivate the national libraries to provide a better service than Google?
Simply being better should be motivation enough (Apart from that they need to show a reason for their continuing existence. And they dont need to be better then Google - just good enough).
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:56 AM   #7
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In the long run all books will be available. Lower quality is a problem, but a problem that will solve itself in the long run.
I agree but we are discussing what should be done right now which is important in determining how long the long run will take.

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And just like profits motivates them to e.g. restrict access to some products, to do whatever they please with your data, etc
Which products do Google restrict in particular? Most public libraries restrict their services to people who live within their geographical area. How profitable will Google be if they start ignoring customers privacy concerns? Look at how quickly websites like facebook change their policies when their is concern over these issues.

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Originally Posted by tirsales View Post
I dont doubt their quality - I doubt that (in the long run) we will get the same service, accesibility, etc from Google then we would from libraries. If book-scanning is not feasible any more Google will simply drop it. If some books dont make profit, there is no guarantee that they will continue to host them. There is not even a guarantee that they will continue to provide any book-related service.
Now imagine them getting a monopole ...
I find it extremely unlikely that Google will abandon their book scanning project but even if they did it would be foolish to just erase all their books. It is far more likely they would give or sell the data to another site. The long tail effect will ensure Google keep less popular books.

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Originally Posted by tirsales View Post
Simply being better should be motivation enough (Apart from that they need to show a reason for their continuing existence. And they dont need to be better then Google - just good enough).
Do you really think that a national library would be closed because they provided a substandard digital library? I think your last sentence sums up why I think Google will deliver a better service. If Google doesn't remain at the top of its game then someone else will jump in and steal Google's customers. If a national library doesn't deliver on its services, it's very difficult for individuals to take funding away from them.
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Old 05-05-2009, 08:08 AM   #8
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I agree but we are discussing what should be done right now which is important in determining how long the long run will take.
Agreed.

Quote:
Which products do Google restrict in particular?
Gosh, I didnt make a list. I distinctly remember some products and services being only available to certain areas or nations (which is their decision).

Quote:
Most public libraries restrict their services to people who live within their geographical area. How profitable will Google be if they start ignoring customers privacy concerns? Look at how quickly websites like facebook change their policies when their is concern over these issues.
You do know some of the scandals wrt Google about privacy? And some of the ongoing affairs?

Quote:
I find it extremely unlikely that Google will abandon their book scanning project but even if they did it would be foolish to just erase all their books. It is far more likely they would give or sell the data to another site. The long tail effect will ensure Google keep less popular books.
I am not so sure - too many projects in the industry fail because the short-term profit it too low. Granted - the momentary situation with Google is fine, but national libraries provide more long-term security.
I dont oppose Google scanning those books - I would oppose a Google monopole.

Quote:
Do you really think that a national library would be closed because they provided a substandard digital library?
Nope, but perhaps the digital library would be abolished. Sorry for misstating that.

Quote:
I think your last sentence sums up why I think Google will deliver a better service. If Google doesn't remain at the top of its game then someone else will jump in and steal Google's customers. If a national library doesn't deliver on its services, it's very difficult for individuals to take funding away from them.
It's actually far easier to influence the course of action a national institution is taking (e.g. via votes) then to influence the course of action of a private company...
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Old 05-05-2009, 08:27 AM   #9
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It's actually far easier to influence the course of action a national institution is taking (e.g. via votes) then to influence the course of action of a private company...
Sorry to go a little off-topic but how do you figure this? In an election you are always voting on a bundle of policies (and they very rarely involve anything about institutions like libraries). So even if there was a candidate that promised to change the policies of the national library (extremely unlikely), what if I hate her stance on the other policies. Unlike the marketplace, you can't pick and choose what to support. And regardless, in any reasonable size population the chance of your vote changing the outcome of an election is much smaller than the probability of winning the lottery.

I'm not saying individuals can readily change Google's policies but they can easily stop contributing to the company. Whereas suppose I decide my public library is a horrible waste of money and I never want to patronise them again. How long would it take for me to rally enough votes to enable me to stop contributing taxes to this institution?
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Old 05-05-2009, 08:35 AM   #10
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I'm not saying individuals can readily change Google's policies but they can easily stop contributing to the company. Whereas suppose I decide my public library is a horrible waste of money and I never want to patronise them again. How long would it take for me to rally enough votes to enable me to stop contributing taxes to this institution?
Well - closing the library all together would be comparable to closing down Google completely - not very feasible, dont you think?
As for "closing down the libraries digital projects" - why not? Get yourself elected into your public committee and you have a pretty good working base.
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Old 05-05-2009, 11:28 AM   #11
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Google restricts Google Books, for one.
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:27 PM   #12
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I would rather much have my private date with a company like Google than in the hands of the "public", or any government institution. Sadly, part of this discussion reminds me of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
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Old 05-05-2009, 09:46 PM   #13
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Atlas Shrugged.
Please, no references to that inverted rorschach test.

Anyway, I hope we won't have to wait for Google to finish, or that they're forced to allow every library the right to subscribe (and not just those in the USA, as that would be useless to me). As it stands, however, I don't see either a Dutch or a European licence system happening, so I can't begin to guess when (if ever) we will gain access to it.

Last edited by zerospinboson; 05-05-2009 at 09:50 PM.
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