Press: “Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: Robert Darnton”

Posted by Kenny Whitebloom on November 16, 2011 in Press.

“It once seemed as though Google would democratize access to knowledge by digitizing all the books in our research libraries. But when Google struck a deal with the authors and publishers who had sued it for breach of copyright, it turned its digitizing operation into a commercial venture; the prices it could charge libraries for subscriptions to its database could have escalated as badly as the prices of journals did. Fortunately, a New York court declared the deal unacceptable because it threatened to eliminate all competition, and now we have an alternative to Google Book Search.

“I refer to the Digital Public Library of America, a project to digitize millions of books and to make them available free of charge to everyone in the world. Far from being a utopian dream, this plan is doable. A coalition of foundations will provide the funding, and a coalition of libraries will supply the books. We will announce its details at a conference in Washington, D.C., on October 21, and we expect it to begin providing books and all kinds of digital material to the public within three years.

“Despite my lamentations, therefore, I look forward to a promising future, at least insofar as ordinary people will have access to their cultural heritage. Am I an optimist? Yes, but not a cockeyed optimist.”

From Robert Darnton’s article in Commentary Magazine, Optimistic or Pessimistic about America: Robert Darnton

Leave a Reply