Monday, January 17, 2011

A few items...

  • The European Commission has come out strong against Google and in renewed support of its own Europeana, which doesn't carry some of the draconian regulations that Google does for preferential use.  I blogged about Europeana a bit when it came out two years ago, and the material available today is much more extensive than it was then.    You can always find a link to Europeana (along with some other digital libraries) at the bottom of the right sidebar. One of the main strengths that I see in Europeana is that it aggregates the cultural items from various sources around Europe (museums, libraries, archives, etc.). I think the worry with dispersed resources rather than one source like Google is that the knowledge store becomes pretty balkanized and difficult to manage. Europeana, however, links you to the original sites where all of these items were digitized, allowing member institutions to do their own work in their own house, but also bringing it under one digital roof for access. This strikes me as a much more sensible structure than Google's rather monopolistic philosophy.
  • This is a little old now, but worth reading if you haven't-- the director of the Harvard University Library writes about three threats to research libraries... two related to journal prices, and the third to Google.  
  • Jason Goroncy mentions a brilliant plan to guard libraries against austerity measures. 


    1. "...yet those publishers add very little value " the research process, and most of the research is ultimately funded by American taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health and other organizations."

      This is a very odd statement. Do car dealers or grocery stores or freight haulers add much value to the car making, food producing or toilet paper making processes?

      The journals appear to be classic middle men; and middle men are rather important to the working of a market economy.

    2. I don't think the problem is with publishers acting as middlemen for the research process, Xenophon. The problem is with journal prices rising sharply while library budgets are severely cut. Darnton's point is also that, given better options for libraries to publish and store research, publishers like Elsevier don't offer much of value to the research process.

      This is really the flip side of my continuous critiques of Amazon (which you've also defended as a middleman in the past). Here publishers are making texts unaffordable for libraries, while Amazon makes the publication of texts unaffordable for various publishers. In either case, the problem isn't with the presence of a middleman itself, but rather with the lopsided relationship created by the middleman.