An article in the New York Times today explores the “book search” initiatives at Google and Microsoft and the resistance of some research libraries to participating. The reason cited is that both search providers are asking for exclusivity: “Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services.”
Many research institutions are opting instead to join the Open Content Alliance, which promises public access to the content and information without any restrictions. Yahoo and Microsoft are members of the Open Content Alliance. Accordingly, it’s not entirely a zero-sum game. Libraries can elect to participate in the Open Content Alliance and a search engine program, which some are doing.
Institutions participating in the Open Content Alliance, however, must pay the cost of scanning their libraries themselves. That’s the one catch. But, as the article points out, some will do that to prevent their information from being controlled by commercial organizations and potentially used for commercial gain, if only indirectly.
The information that makes its way into the archives of the Open Content Alliance, however, will ultimately be available to the search engines as well.