They seem to have two concerns.
The prospect is inherently enticing, especially to anyone who has ever worked in a major research library. Google says it will take six years to scan some 15 million books. It will take even longer to understand the cultural implications of admitting everyone with Internet access to the contents of the world's great research libraries.The other is:
But there are some serious concerns. One is about copyright. At the outset, this project will be limited to books that are old enough to no longer be under copyright. This is as it should be. It will serve as a demonstration of the immensity - and the immense cultural value - of works in the public domain, and could well kindle a new appreciation of the
significance of the public domain.
Another crucial concern is the well-being of the books themselves. Google has developed a scanning technology that the company claims is not destructive. Clearly, Google will need to work closely with libraries to ensure that no books are damaged. It is an illusion to think that the digital versions of scanned books can replace the books themselves.When I began reading the editorial, I thought there would be thought-provoking discussion of some weighty problems with the concept of the virtual library for me to ponder. Instead the New York Times is concerned about copyright, even though they say that that problem has already been addressed, and with the possibility of damaging books in the process of scanning them, something that I'm going to have sleepless nights over, I'm sure.
It is not until the final paragraphs that the mindset is revealed behind the effort to bring fear into the discussion of an absolutely benign effort to bring literature into the digital age.
In other words, we will still need to kill all those trees and take words from a word processor and print them, only to turn around and digitize them again so that they can be made available on the net. Such foresight. Does the New York Times have a mandatory retirement age for its employees?
... each library will essentially get a digital backup of a significant portion of its holdings, but it will be critical to remember that printed books are a stable medium, one that has persisted for hundreds of years.
Digital technology is only a few years old, and even in that brief time, the digital world has produced dozens of incompatible, and often unreadable, media formats. The Google project will enhance the usefulness of the books it encompasses, but it in no way will render them obsolete.