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Google Book Scanning Efforts Not Open Enough? 113

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gift-horses-and-mouths dept.
An anonymous reader writes to mention the Washington Post is reporting that the Open Content Alliance is taking the latest shot at Google's book scanning program. Complaining that having all of the books under the "control" of one corporation wouldn't be open enough, the New York-based foundation is planning on announcing a $1 million grant to the Internet Archive to achieve the same end. From the article: "A splinter group called the Open Content Alliance favors a less restrictive approach to prevent mankind's accumulated knowledge from being controlled by a commercial entity, even if it's a company like Google that has embraced 'Don't Be Evil' as its creed. 'You are talking about the fruits of our civilization and culture. You want to keep it open and certainly don't want any company to enclose it,' said Doron Weber, program director of public understanding of science and technology for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation."
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Google Book Scanning Efforts Not Open Enough?

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  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:36PM (#17318974) Journal
    The more the merrier!

    Ideally we could set up a few hundred digital libraries that would all hold some percentage of the catalog, so that any 5 would be able to duplicate the entire catalog. That way, in the event of a catastrophe or some kind of weird global event, it would be more likely that an uncorrupted copy could be found.

    I'd definitely like to see some not-for-profits get involved.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by funfail (970288)
      RAIL: Redundant Array of Inexpensive Libraries

      Preferably the technology should be RoR.
      • i expect a whole line of O'Reilly "Research on RAILs" books to show up on shelves near me, or would they just digitize those directly instead of printing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by s20451 (410424)
      That way, in the event of a catastrophe or some kind of weird global event, it would be more likely that an uncorrupted copy could be found.

      How do you plan to read it once you find it?

      10 year disruption -- content formats have moved on; readers are scarce
      100 year disruption -- hard drives, DVDs decay to unreadability
      1000 year disruption -- even paper decays, unless specifically preserved
      >1000 year disruption -- even if it's chiseled into a stone tablet, the language might be extinct
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)
        If there was a catastrophy, then the technology would not have 'moved on'
        I can read data from ten years ago on my home computer with no problems.

        If we ahve a 100 year disruption, well then we are probably throwing rocks at one another and rebuilding civilization.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah, that's why we don't have any idea what anybody [mit.edu] might have said [georgetown.edu] (or meant [lone-star.net]) more than a thousand [ancienttexts.org] years ago.
      • Re:Good! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @08:19PM (#17320570) Journal
        10 year disruption -- content formats have moved on; readers are scarce

        I've been using computers for well more than 10 years, and ASCII is still just as readable as ever.

        Mark-up languages like HTML, XML, or RTF may die off eventually (several hundred years at least), but you can always strip the markup (either with code, or mentally by ignoring it). Plus, with the formats being so simple, and book layout being so obvious, it should take 5 minutes to write a new parser for any of them.

        100 year disruption -- hard drives, DVDs decay to unreadability

        Both of the above would be unreadable by the standard pick-up mechanism, but manually reading it, bit-by-bit with something like an electron microscope should be possible for many, many more years after that. Just as technology has made it possible to read previously erased text on paper, so to will it be easier, in the future, to read physically decaying digital media.

        >1000 year disruption -- even if it's chiseled into a stone tablet, the language might be extinct

        It takes many thousands of years for even uncommon languages to disappear. And if they were even remotely similar to our own, they can be deciphered without any advanced knowledge. So, I'd be worried about the long-term chances of a complex language like Chinese to be preserved, but anything with Latin roots, that uses a small alphabet should do fine.

        Besides that, you can ensure the language survives by having multiple language tranlations, side-by-side. If any one of them is understood in the distant future, they can use it to learn all the rest. See: The Rosetta Stone
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Korin43 (881732)
          Not to mention that the whole "decaying medium" argument is ridiculous. If a hard drive fails, replace it. If you get something better than hard drives, copy it. It's not like big servers only keep the information in one specific place. There's usually copies.
        • by Scarblac (122480)

          I've been using computers for well more than 10 years, and ASCII is still just as readable as ever.

          But EBCDIC is slightly harder. Besides, ASCII is only usable for a subset of human text - basically only for English. It's not really a solution.

          • by Dan Ost (415913)
            Do not disregard partial solutions just because they're not 100%.
          • by moofo (697416)
            Even if I understand that some knowledge is sometimes easier to explain with a specific language, I think an universal language would be very important.

            I am a french speaker, and I think english would be the best for this job. Why should we put the knowledge in several language in the first place when there are so many good translation engines ?
          • by evilviper (135110)

            Besides, ASCII is only usable for a subset of human text - basically only for English.

            ...and Spanish ...and German ...and French ...and Latin ...and many, many more.

            You're just simply wrong.

            Their languages all work just fine without the few non-ASCII characters... Accents can be approximated easily enough.

            It's not really a solution.

            A) Yes it is.
            B) What made you confuse my post with a proposal for the universal book-digitizing system of the future?
            C) I was illustrating a point.

            Obviously, if such a syste

        • It takes many thousands of years for even uncommon languages to disappear. And if they were even remotely similar to our own, they can be deciphered without any advanced knowledge. So, I'd be worried about the long-term chances of a complex language like Chinese to be preserved, but anything with Latin roots, that uses a small alphabet should do fine.

          A thousand years for a language to disappear? All it takes is a generation who doesn't speak it and it might as well be considered gone. A language is often

          • by evilviper (135110)

            A thousand years for a language to disappear? All it takes is a generation who doesn't speak it and it might as well be considered gone.

            Not a chance in hell of that ever happening in the real world.

            You'd have to seperate every single child from their parents at birth, send them to some far away land where the old language isn't spoken at all, and make sure they never meet anyone who speaks anything else.

            Languages are handed down from parent to child, for several generations before they are forgotten, even w

      • I am sure someone will have the bright idea to upgrade the format within the next thousand years.

        As to the article I completely agree. If public libraries were undertaking this project they would have a lot more fair use wiggle room.
      • 1000 year disruption -- even if it's chiseled into a stone tablet, the language might be extinct

        Umm, by conservative estimates, Hebrew and Sanskrit are both more than 5000 years old. If you go by most widely accepted estimates, the oldest work in Sanskrit is more than 7000 years old. Both languages have survived.

      • 100 year disruption -- hard drives, DVDs decay to unreadability

        That is, if we imagine a digital archive to function like it's plain-paper counterpart : with huge underground stores with shelves full of discs.

        But if we're a little bit realistic we should realise that, in the current age of internet and digital information, the data doesn't hve to remain fixed on a specific medium. The ability to make perfect copies is basically inherent to the nature of digital data.

        The problem of preservation isn't anymore

    • by lamona (743288)
      It's called "Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe" and it's even got standards and software. [lockss.org]
  • Can't Google just Open Source the project?

    That way we don't have different companies and foundations duplicating eachother's work, but all the results are still open and accessible to everybody.
    • by CDPatten (907182)
      Sure they "could", but they won't. At the very best they will allow some API's into their database, but then they will find a way to integrate their ads with it. Whatever the case, Google is going to be the sole owner of their project here (by the way there is nothing wrong with that either).

      Google is just as "evil" as any other corporation, its just thus far they have put enough spin on what they do to skirt the label.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Can't Google just Open Source the project?

      Well, the source of the code running the project wouldn't be that helpful, it's the content we're after.

      And presuming you meant Google opening the content.... well I doubt it... they want to sell ads on the content after all!

      Don't forget, google nice tho' they are haven't given out code/content/etc for any of their "crown jewels"
      • Hate to reply to myself, but I should have added:

        1) Google may also have contractual obligations with copyright holders that prevent putting the content in an open format.

        2) If point 1 can be overcome & Google could see a competitive advantage over MS's book scanning effort in opening the content then perhaps they'd try it after all...
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by CleverBoy (801540)
          Exactly right. All these comments about "must show ads over it" pretty much misses the point. Google's project allows you to SEARCH all the books its scanning, and even so, its drawn the ire of copyright holders. Imagine if they said... "Oh, yes... we're OPEN SOURCING all of our scanning results for unfettered public consumption." No judge in the world... nuff said. Open sourcing the actually methodology would not serve much purpose, although its worthy of note that they have open sources some OCR softwa
        • 1)Google may also have contractual obligations with copyright holders that prevent putting the content in an open format.

          For the most part, the copyright holders complaint is specifically that there is NO agreement with Google to allow them to do anything with their work, let alone redistribute it.

    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:55PM (#17319226) Journal
      I bet they won't.

      There is nothing sexy or secret about the methods of scanning, but they must have put an imperial frickton of money into the process...To give the fruit of that much money away would be irresponsible to their shareholders...At least until they've made their money back with it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        To give the fruit of that much money away would be irresponsible to their shareholders...At least until they've made their money back with it.

        Only if you don't expect to reap the benefits of it afterwards and that giving it away might actually be required in order to reap those benefits. You know, kinda like how google gives away search engine results and email accounts.
        • by ePhil_One (634771)
          You know, kinda like how google gives away search engine results and email accounts


          Google does not give those things away for free. It exchanges them in return for subjecting you to advertising, which they in turn sell to folks who want to show you advertising.

          There's no such thing as a free lunch.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MS-06FZ (832329)
      Hear, hear! Books want to be open! I find that when books can be open, as they should, they become much more accessible to people than if they were kept closed.
  • Google's goof (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:51PM (#17319166) Homepage
    Google's big mistake was to try to do both PD and copyrighted books. Regardless of the legal merits (which are complicated), it was just a stupid business decision to waste effort on doing copyrighted books in general, on an opt-out basis. The controversy about the copyrighted books has dragged the PD books down with it. Part of the fallout from the lawsuit has been that Google has done everything it could to hide from users the fact that the service even exists. The whole thing is actually an abject failure, so it doesn't make me worry that Google will somehow get too powerful. Anyway, AFAIK Google doesn't claim any IP rights on their scans of PD books, so they actually don't have any control at all -- other people can take the scans and do whatever they want with them. Google is in the advertising business, not the publishing business.
    • Re:Google's goof (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @06:09PM (#17319380)
      Part of the fallout from the lawsuit has been that Google has done everything it could to hide from users the fact that the service even exists.


      Its on the short list "More" link on the Google search page, and results from it are brought up without special request for certain searches on the main web search engine (apparently, any with the word "book" that get hits, though I'm not certain of that.)

      That's hardly Google doing "everything it could to hide from users the fact that the service even exists".
      • by bcrowell (177657)

        Its on the short list "More" link on the Google search page...
        When the service first came online, you would just do a normal Google search, and results from books would pop up, by default. When the lawsuit happened, that stopped happening, and you had to go to books.google.com to get separate results on books. They had an easy way to let millions of people use the service, just by encountering it naturally in their search results, but they got rid of that. The result is that ordinary people have no idea

        • Regular Google search: Search terms 'book math' [google.com]. Book results come up as a special heading after sponsored links and before regular results.

          As far as I can tell, the results returned by books.google.com and google.com are disjoint sets.

          They clearly aren't disjoint, but are instead overlapping (particularly, the book results returned by the main search engine are a proper subset of those that would be returned using the main book search page); I think this is typical of the way Google presents "OneBox" resul

    • Providing the available full text copies when a book is searched for is denying it exists?

      http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=origin+of+spe cies&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]

      Is Google also denying the existence of its Froogle service since it's listed below the 'Books' search option in 'more>>'?
      • by bcrowell (177657)
        In the search you gave, I don't get any Google Book Search hits. To get the Google Book Search hits, you need to go to this url at books.google.com [google.com].
        • I get three Google Books hits from the original search without using books.google.com, just off the main google engine. Now, Google search results aren't particularly consistent (refreshing the search will sometimes change the results, and frequently cause sponsored links and OneBox results to disappear, as will, IIRC, doing multiple different searches in rapid succession).

          • by bcrowell (177657)

            Interesting. I wonder why it's giving you different hits than me. Are you logged in to a google account?

            There's no question that they changed the normal behavior, though. I'm enrolled in Google Books as a publisher (I opted in), and they sent me e-mails announcing all these policy changes. There was a period when the results from scanned books were always mixed in with web results, and then it abruptly changed. I think they're just trying to reduce their legal exposure in this lawsuit -- if fewer people us

            • There was a period when the results from scanned books were always mixed in with web results, and then it abruptly changed.

              Since they are a different kind of result, the use of OneBox is consistent with the rest of the Google interface—if you use the web search, you get web results in the main, but if there are particularly appropriate results by some more limited algorithm in one of the other databases, you also may get a handful of those in the OneBox area immediately after the sponsored links, and

            • Are you logged in to a google account?

              No. Here is a screen capture for you.

              book results screen capture [tinypic.com]
  • funny. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CDPatten (907182)
    anyone else find the irony here funny. Google is on the side of keeping this a closed circuit project and MS is part of the alliance trying to make it open.

    Its funny. Laugh.
    • by guspasho (941623)
      Not really ironic. Microsoft would definitely be singing a different tune if they were in Google's shoes. Take all the examples of when they have been in Google's shoes. When was the last time they open-sourced anything? That's right, they haven't.

      Embrace, extend, and extinguish.
  • It's kind of sad to think that people are already worried about one corporation controlling ALL of the world's books. Let's still think about the reality of it. Google came to a handful (like 5 or so) of libraries (major ones at that), with a plan to digitize out-of-copyright books and put their content on the internet. They've got the search technology, they're trying to innovate. Now, if there were only five libraries in the entire world, yes, we could have a problem here. But in reality, there's A LOT mo
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @06:22PM (#17319500) Homepage
      I think you're vastly overestimating the added benefit from scanning books from more libraries after the first few:
      1. Most libraries' collections are very similar to most other libraries' collections, and the greatest overlap occurs with the books that are the most important.
      2. This is all about PD stuff, since OCA isn't proposing to do anything still in copyright. Less ephemeral works (the kind typically preserved in library collections a century later) generally all had their copyrights renewed in the U.S., so that means we're only talking about pre-1923 materials. Since congress keeps on extending copyright terms, nothing is probably ever going to enter the public domain from 1923 on. That means we're talking about the publishing world of 1922, which was vastly smaller than today's publishing world. Amazon.com has on the order of 10^6 books. To get a feel for the size of the publishing industry in past decades, try browsing through the catalog of renewals [upenn.edu]; the number of books published was extremely small in the early 19th century.
      3. There are many books that won't be in any library's collection, simply because they weren't considered very valuable. You could digitize a thousand libraries, and never find them. Handwriting manuals from 1893. Trashy novels. Etc. In fact, there are a lot of books from the 1930's-1950's that are now PD, because they never had their copyrights renewed, but you're not going to find them in libraries' collections, and in fact it's very unlikely that anyone will ever be interested in them.
      • Hey! I'm interested in some of that '30s through '50s material!
        I think I am, anyway. There is this library I know that had the largest selection of old sci-fi I've ever seen. Many of the books it has, I've never seen anywhere else, and I think that at least some of the sub-works are public domain. I mean, most of the books in question are in generic library covers.
        There are stories in those books that I liked, that I might want to read again. Let's not let those works disintegrate--please?
        Also, the
      • by lamona (743288)

        Most libraries' collections are very similar to most other libraries' collections, and the greatest overlap occurs with the books that are the most important.

        Because the original Google 5 libraries have their holdings entered into WorldCat [oclc.org], a statistical study [dlib.org] was done that showed that those five libraries would account for 33% of the 32 million books in that database. It also showed that 61% of the books held by the Google 5 are uniquely held by only one library. Essentially, the holdings of libraries fol

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by webbod (1032868)
      Oxford University is one of the UK copyright libraries - it has a copy of every book and published in the UK and Ireland since the 1600s - it gets them by default.
    • by Baricom (763970)

      Google came to a handful (like 5 or so) of libraries (major ones at that), with a plan to digitize out-of-copyright books and put their content on the internet.

      If that was all that happened, nobody would be complaining. The problem is that it wasn't only out-of-copyright books, but every book in their collection, including those clearly in copyright. What's more, they require publishers who have issues with this copyright violation to opt out, and blanket opt-outs are not accepted - the publisher has to p

      • One things that bugs the heck out of me with Google is their, "Oh we will do this because we have the rights", yet if you want to use their stuff you need EXPLICIT permissions. http://www.google.com/permissions/index.html [google.com]

        " All of Google's trademarks, logos, web pages, screen shots, or other distinctive features ("Google Brand Features") are protected by applicable trademark, copyright, and other intellectual property laws. If you would like to use any of Google Brand Features on your website, in an advertis
  • ...when you can copy. If Google is going to make the data freely available, why pay people to start another scanning program when pay people to wait for Google to finish, have them go to the Google page and simply press CTRL-A, CTRL-C and then CTRL-V into their own page? Scan complete!

    • by evil_Tak (964978)
      How is it going to help for them to create a new screen(1) window and then prepare to insert a literal control character?
    • Just because Google will make the data freely available may not necessarily mean that they will let you laugh at their work and let you use it for profit in your own company.
      --Ram
  • Since when were Google "in control" for being allowed to show excerpts of a book for the advertisement of the companies allowing them to carry their books?
  • One million dollars? Even if you focus that solely on the contents of the Library of Congress, that will be, what, five cents per book?
  • by creative_Righter (834378) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @06:21PM (#17319492)
    Already facing a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement, Google Inc.'s crusade to build a digital library has triggered a philosophical debate with an alternative project promising better online access to the world's books, art and historical documents.

    Scanning a book is easy, it simply involves taking pictures. You can splice the spine off an take pictures of each page or use one of the panoply of non-destructive machines to correct the page warping effects of an open book. This is not particularly hard or expensive.

    The latest tensions revolve around Google's insistence on chaining the digital content to its Internet-leading search engine and the nine major libraries that have aligned themselves with the Mountain View-based company.

    Damn straight. The OCR process is the hardest part, of course they wouldn't allow access to highly valuable text to others. They might have a million books "scanned" this year but each page has to be OCRed. Most people don't decouple those operations and assume that after scanning the hard part is over. Say each book has 300 pages, so we're talking about running 300 million pages of text through OCR. Now you've got a real problem. How does one know if a page of a book is OCRed correctly? You can pay a human or even a large team of humans to QA the text but even then you can only spot check here and there. A 99.99% correct OCR program will mess up on the equivalent of 150,000 pages of text a year (spread out more or less uniformly across the 300 million). Also, not all pages of books are scanable (pictures, weird fonts, weird page layouts), and then there are headaches with keeping track of the related editions of a books, multiple editions of books, displaying pictures in the reader you don't have copyright to (which I think always gets glossed over with these sorts of articles), 10 digit to 13 digit ISBNs, etc. So yes, they aren't going to allow access to the text to others, because it's hard and expensive to do so because you can only automate so much if you want to the ensure accuracy of the text itself (I think Google does). If they opened the text up what stops the competitors from simply adding the data into their search engines after the difficult part is over? Google does no evil but they aren't stupid.

    • by monopole (44023)
      Scanning a book is easy, it simply involves taking pictures. You can splice the spine off an take pictures of each page or use one of the panoply of non-destructive machines to correct the page warping effects of an open book. This is not particularly hard or expensive.

      Only if the book is expendable. In the case of many pre-1920 books (i.e. out of copyright) any sane library wouldn't even let you push it flat against the glass of a flatbed scanner. Ideally you need a scanner that keeps the book from openin
    • As I understand it, Google just uses the raw OCR. It's usually good enough for searching, which is what they are intrested in, and requires a lot less manpower than corrected OCR. If you want corrected OCR, you need to look at places like Project Gutenberg (and distributed proofreading).
  • ... and copyright extension then, since that is also dominating our culture now...?
    yeah, thought not. copyright enforcement is only demanded by those who can control it, and it's sheer brilliance that they turned a civil law issue into a criminal one and thus got the gov't to pay the copyright holder's costs!
  • Project Gutenburg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @06:52PM (#17319802) Journal

    I'm a kind of baffled why people are talking about starting up new projects or Open Sourcing (tm) google's prject (whatever that means...).

    Project Gutenburg [gutenberg.org] is open and non proprietary (ASCII text) and has been for quite a while.

    After scanning, they use a distributed proofreading system where volunteers compare a scanned page image to the OCR text for errors. If you've got some free time, consider helping out.

    • I'm a kind of baffled why people are talking about starting up new projects or Open Sourcing (tm) google's prject (whatever that means...).

      "Open sourcing" Google's project, as others have used the term in the thread, would seem to mean providing, at least, an open API so that different collections could federate easily, and perhaps providing an Open Source implementation of some of parts of that API, as well.

      Project Gutenburg is open and non proprietary (ASCII text) and has been for quite a while.

      Project G

    • by evilviper (135110)
      Project Gutenburg is open and non proprietary (ASCII text) and has been for quite a while.

      They focus solely on public-domain works, as opposed to fair-use of current, copyrighted works, as Google does.

  • by the packrat (721656) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:10PM (#17319970) Homepage

    You folks do realise that Google returns the books after they scan them so they'll still be in the libraries afterwards right? So how does this reduce their availability?

    • by sgholt (973993)
      You seem to be the first one who came to the same conslusion as me...the books themselves are the thing that needs to stay open and available. Whether Google or the Gutenburg Project copies the books is not the issue.
      So that brings me to another conclusion...there must be some other reason for this...hmmm
      Who would want to limit Google?
    • Not only are the books themselves not going anywhere, the libraries themselves will be getting their own copy of the archive (at least, that's the deal at least one of the libraries has made with Google, although it seems that each library has made a separate deal and they've all had to sign significant non-disclosure agreements). So it's really not as though Google will have exclusive control over even the digital form of all this material.
  • by Ankh (19084) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:27PM (#17320144) Homepage
    Most of these people focus on English-language books printed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, because (1) it's usually easy to determine copyright status, and (2) if you go earlier you get the tall "s" ( in utf-8) which no OCR program today seems able to handle, so the scanning cost is increased.

    Scanning with a flat-bed scanner basically wrecks the binding. So the books probably need to be rebound afterwards, or can be discarded.

    There are photography setups (e.g. Phase One has one) but the resolution is too low, even with a 40 megapixel medium-format camera (yes, they are used for this). A little high-school mathematics (e.g. Nyquist) and the back of an envelope, combined with some measurements, will show that if you scan engravings at under 1200dpi, you will lose a lot of detail, and indeed, compare for example the Alice in Wonderland pictures [fromoldbooks.org] on my own site with the Project Gutenberg ones. You can read the engraver's signature on most of the ones I have. Yes, the bandwidth needed to host higher resolution images is greater (which is why I have ads, sorry). But it's worth it.

    Some of these books will never be scanned again. Even for OCR, 400dpi grayscale seems a minimum for footnotes and other small text even in English.

    I'd also like to see more interfaced like the Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders' site where people can submit corrections. Maybe use a WIKI for the transcription??

    Liam
    • In my scanning for Distributed Proofreaders http://www.pgdp.net/ [pgdp.net], I would have to say that over 90% of the books do not have illustrations or footnotes that require scanning at higher resolutions than 300 DPI. Even the ones with illustrations are probably fine with 300-600 DPI scans. For the most part, the black and white images of text pages in the Google PDF files are adequate, although the illustrations are low resolution garbage. The real problem I see with Google's work is that it's substandard, with
      • by Ankh (19084) *
        I agree with you that needing more than 200dpi is fairly rare, and if I have needed it more often it is possibly because I tend to work with older books, or books in poor condition.

        It's not only for footnotes, but also, say, to distinguish an ae ligature (æ in utf8) from an oe ligature (oe in utf-8 if it survives slashdot), or from the unligatured letters, or to distinguish a zero (0) and a letter "O", and so on. If one has the original book to hand, that's less of an issue.

        I agree that the Google bul
      • by TTK Ciar (698795) *

        The second issue I have is that the full image display at both Google and the OCA/live.com (and PDF downloads of full images) is not particularly useful on low resolution displays, like PDAs, mobile phones, tablets, and dedicated ebook readers.

        What formats do these devices understand? The OCA's books are available in a variety of formats, including text, xml (which is just the text annotated with positional information), and high- and low-resolution jpeg. Click on the "FTP" link to the left in the details page to see all formats:

        details page [archive.org]
        FTP index [archive.org]

        It shouldn't be too difficult to write a little software that takes the xml + jpeg and combines them into a cohesive html document .. converting the xml to html would be easy, but recogn

  • In 25 years they will determine that googles library is incomplete and start OCR shotgunning books down camera filled canvas chutes.

    A brief protest will be launched, but all the kids will be too busy with their new fangled wearables and feelie parks to care.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:55PM (#17320366)
    A splinter group called the Open Content Alliance favors a less restrictive approach to prevent mankind's accumulated knowledge from being controlled by a commercial entity...


    Did someone break their legs?

    See that big building downtown with all the books in it?

    Oh wait, get up from your desk, go outside (yes I know, it burns...), get on the bus and go downtown.

    OK, now see the big building with the strange letters "LIBRARY" on the front? OK, that's the one, go inside... see all the books?

    Now go up to the attendant at the desk and tell them your name and address and show a piece of photo ID. The nice person will give you a card that you can use to borrow books.

    What's a book? OK, its many pages of paper bound together usually with glue and string. On each of these "pages" you will find ink (a dye) in the pattern of letters that form words and sentences and paragraphs.

    Usually, these "books" tell a story or provide organised information.

    No go ahead, pick one out - they'll even let you take it home for a week or two so you can read it. For free!

    You can browse the stacks (a colloquialism for those big shelves with books on them) which are organised according to a system known as the Dewey Decimal System. You can use a revolutionary piece of technology known as a "card catalog" to indicate the position of the title you seek on the stacks (though many libraries have this same catalog searchable from computer terminals).

    It's revolutionary, I know. But there you have it, free information and entertainment, enough to last a lifetime, with a "less restrictive approach".

    Enjoy.
    • by dido (9125)

      But unfortunately, not all of the world has access to such wonderful libraries, and specialized research is somewhat difficult, even if your city is one that is blessed with a nice public library. Boy, I loved it when I discovered sites like this [umich.edu], and this [cornell.edu], and this [uni-goettingen.de], collections to truly warm the heart of a math geek like me. Good luck finding even a tenth of the books and journals in those three collections in your local public library.

      • by SL Baur (19540)

        But unfortunately, not all of the world has access to such wonderful libraries
        As you are probably well aware of. The first private primary school in Banaybanay (Banaybanay is a small municipality in eastern Mindanao) I sent my eldest step-son to had exactly one book in its "library". It was a donated high school text on Shakespeare. However they get this done, it will be wonderful opportunity for many people.
  • Enclose what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by McFadden (809368) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:59AM (#17322526)
    'You are talking about the fruits of our civilization and culture. You want to keep it open and certainly don't want any company to enclose it,
    Yeah... because by scanning a book, Google automatically controls all the of the knowledge inside it.
  • Given Microsoft's history on intellectual property, the complaints of the OCA would be a lot more credible if Microsoft weren't a part of it.
  • Surely we can speed up this process by simply asking the publishers to make available the original digital Latex or SGML files for all books printed since the late 70s right?

    Why invest hundreds of hours on scan/ocr/qa for texts which already exist in a digital format?

    • by lamona (743288)
      Because the publishers 1) didn't use any particular standard for their digital files 2) and they didn't keep the digital files once the book was published. The folks doing e-books for the publishers were horrified in the early part of this decade to discover that publishers had considered the digital files discardable. Today, most publishers send the book to the printers in PDF, so there is at least that file, but if you want to do any reformatting you're going to be working with a Quark file with formattin
  • You could read this as.. What?? Money? We want money, give us some money. We want our share. Why can't we have our share?? Wahhhhh. We want money.
  • Just how does Google scanning a book prevent anyone else from doing the same? Does Google own the only copy? I doubt that. This seems like much ado about nothing, or an outright grab to force Google to share what they put the effort into creating in the first place. And I'll bet the sharing is expected to be Free.
  • ... a company like Google that has embraced 'Don't Be Evil' as its creed

    Now that you mention it, so has the Christian Church, the Muslems and in fact most of the other religions. As have such magnificent luminarias as George Bush and Tony Blair. Well, more or less.

    Morale: You can't trust people that try to use that kind of 'creed' as a selling point.

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