French National Library head rails against Google
By Steve Malone
Posted on 22 Feb 2005 at 11:33
The President of the National Library of France is a worried man. Jean-Christmas Jeanneney,the President of the National Library of France (BNF), recently wrote an article in Le Monde alerting France and Europe to the dangers of the Google Print project.
Jeanneney says that by concentrating on making overwhelmingly English-language books available through the Google Print project, the Internet's culture would be skewed towards an Anglo-Saxon cultural view of the world.
Last December Google announced that it was to scan and make available the works in five of the great libraries of the world including Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan and Oxford's Bodleian Library. The project amounts to some 15 million works. Those that are out of copyright would be made freely available.
Jeanneney is not against the programme itself. In fact, he says that the 'Messianic' project should be met with 'pure and simple jubilation' as it will bring the works within reach of `poor countries` and 'underprivileged populations`. What worries him is that the vast majority of the works to be digitised are in English.
He warns of the `risk of a crushing domination of America` but says that quotas and protectionism didn't work for cinema and TV and are unlikely to work on the Internet.
Jeanneney admits that equivalent French projects can't compete with the resources of Google. Instead, he calls upon the European Union to make `a generous budget' available to run a parallel project to digitise Europe's libraries and provide a cultural counterbalance.
Google itself seems a bit bemused by the article. Speaking to BetaNews a Google spokesperson said Jeanneney `had concerns about Google Print because we partnered with Anglo Saxons. This is a first step for us; we can't do everything at once. It is our intention to be as inclusive as possible, respect the diversity of cultures and we will work with any library and are interested in talking to institutions with great works like BNF`.
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