In 2004 Google announced it’s its book digitizing project. The short form is that Google digitizes all sorts of books and makes them available online to read if they are out of copyright, or to preview in the copyright is still valid.
Meanwhile, more and more talk is heard about cloud computing. Although it seems the definition of cloud computing is still developing, as I understand it, it means working (in the widest possible sense) on the net rather than on your home computer. Thus when you search Google Books, for instance, you’re searching in the cloud even though the results appear on your desktop.
It’s not surprising that Google got into the book digitizing business early. In fact, in a way, they created it on a large scale. It seems that, at least for the time being Google understands the net better than anyone.
On July 31, Google Books engineering director Dan Clancy gave a talk about Google’s Vision of digital books. MediaBistro reported on the speech and the article includes a transcript.
Clancy’s comments are surprisingly short – not quite 500 words. He lists the three major points Google considers as they move forward digitizing new books:
- … I believe people want their books stored in the cloud…
- … I think it’s critical that there’s diversity of choices in terms of retailers…
- … our model is you should be able to read on any device…
I, of course, have some questions:
- What happens to the cloud if when the power fails? I worry that we’ll lose our stored knowledge if we digitize books without also storing them on paper, or something like paper that doesn’t require electricity to read. I think of the lost library of Alexandria. Of course, those were physical books, so I want paper books stored in multiple libraries.
- How do we protect diversity in the cloud? Not just of retailers, but of thought? Maybe the question is more properly worded: How do we encourage diversity in the cloud? It’s so easy just to hear the voices that agree with me.
- When will we have a device to read from that is as safe as a paperback in the bath or at the beach?
The cloud is part of our lives and will be for the foreseeable future. It will continue to have more and more impact on our lives, not just as writers and readers, but as people who live in this millennium. I find it hard to think about the cloud and yet I use it, and some of my work is part of it.
So, what questions would you like to ask about the cloud and/or about Google Books?