Google's Got All the Marbles

Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard library system, writes in a lengthy article in the February 12th issue of the New York Review of Books:

"Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopoly--a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information. Google has no serious competitors. Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers."

He also discusses the economics of professional journals and how the system has changed over the past hundred years. A portion of his commentary:

"The result stands out on the acquisitions budget of every research library: the Journal of Comparative Neurology now costs $25,910 for a year's subscription; Tetrahedron costs $17,969 (or $39,739, if bundled with related publications as a Tetrahedron package); the average price of a chemistry journal is $3,490; and the ripple effects have damaged intellectual life throughout the world of learning. Owing to the skyrocketing cost of serials, libraries that used to spend 50 percent of their acquisitions budget on monographs now spend 25 percent or less. University presses, which depend on sales to libraries, cannot cover their costs by publishing monographs. And young scholars who depend on publishing to advance their careers are now in danger of perishing."


Some Fear Google’s Power in Digital Books

I prefer to think of this as the first step in the death of the bloated American university system.

No more places to publish, no more new faculty, inattention to undergrad. ed coupled with sky-rocketing prices, etc. Rinse. Repeat.

Journal renewals are made even *more* fun in Canada by throwing in fluctuating exchange rates. Last year we were close to par with the US dollar, but this year we're back to a relatively big gap. It plays havoc with bugeting when you suddenly find that you can't afford as much as you had expected.

I wish I could be sympathetic, but what we are looking at is the democratization of information on Google. If Google wasn't doing it, a glut of small and focused search engines would be. What universities need is a new business model that puts young scholars first rather then proprietary research.

Subscribe to Comments for "Google's Got All the Marbles"