4th Jun 2023

Google opens digital library ahead of EU governments

The Internet search engine Google has launched its books scan engine in eight European countries.

The move comes ahead of steps by the European commission and EU member states who also plan to set up their own European digital library.

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Google will on Tuesday (18 October) officially present the opening of its controversial digital library service in eight European countries at the yearly Frankfurt Book Fair, a major German cultural event.

Last Sunday, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain already witnessed the launch of "Google Print" .

"Google Print" enables users to look for scanned books from libraries on the internet.

Google's move comes after European Commissioner Viviane Reding in September announced Brussels’ own project for digitisation and preservation of Europe's cultural heritage – generally seen as a competitor to Google Print.

The commission initiative followed strong pressure from France, where Google Print after its earlier launch in the US and the UK had sparked fear for Anglo-American cultural domination.

French \"counter attack\"

The director of France’s national library Jean-Noel Jeanneney in January called for a European "counter attack" against US firm Google, observing a "crushing domination of America in the definition of the idea that future generations will have of the world".

French president Chirac subsequently called upon the European Union to launch a competing "European digital library".

A letter to the commission, drawn up by Mr Chirac in April and signed by the German, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish and Polish leaders, urged Brussels to take the initiative in the issue.

Copyright problems

However, French concerns are unlikely to materialise as Google itself has already backed down from its initial ambition to disclose complete libraries to the public.

Google came under fire in the US and UK as it was scanning not only library books upon consent by publishers, but also works which are under copyright.

Last August, the scanning had to be stopped after a group representing more than 8000 authors filed a lawsuit against Google, arguing that the digitising of library books represents a severe violation of copyright law.

For European users of Google Print, this means that they can find only few full books.

Most search result show just a few pages or merely a summary plus purchase information.

France launches Francophone digital library

The French national library BNF has launched a prototype version of its contribution to a European digital library aimed as one of the European alternatives to US digitalisations of books and documents.

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