This is a book that I happened across while perusing the new books area at the library. Small, at only 92 pages, this is a book that you should read.
Jean-Noel Jeanneney is president of the Bibliotheque nationale de France, professor at the Institut d'etudes politique de Paris, past executive director of Radio-France and Radio-France International, and has also worked for the government of President Francois Mitterrrand as secretary of state for foreign trade and secretary of state for communications. I tell you this, as it is important to know Mr. Jeanneney's background. Especially as this book concerns Google Books. Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge takes a European look at the efforts of Google to digitize the world's books. There are two points to this, right off the bat. First, this book was translated from French. According to the author, very few books are translated into English (the major exceptions are the "classics"). Second, this is a thought provoking book from a totally different viewpoint. I think that we take Google for granted but Jeanneney does not. He talks about how Google's efforts are primarily with English speaking countries, that important works from European countries will be overlooked, and that by providing the search, you will lose important context. All very valid arguments.
Many people will disagree with his position, especially since the digitization is currently underway (and because he is French), but this is an excellent book examining the thought processes of librarians. They really want to get their information out to more people, and Google Books is one such avenue. However, Jeanneney raises important questions and shows the cultural issues surrounding Google's efforts. He also asks why a private enterprise is taking on this project, when governments or libraries should be banding together to make this a reality.
I really enjoyed reading this as it was facinating viewpoint. I don't think that many people would take the time to pick up this book, as very few people would actually care about Google Books or a European argument debating its merits. But I think that I am better for having read it.
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