Dr Beachcombing over at strange history sent me this post of his through email a few days ago and I decided to link to it. It regards the quality of the scans available for books in the Google Books service. Â He takes particular umbrage with the poor quality of some of the Google scans of books they have up and also with the way they use IP mapping to determine if a user can even access the scan in the first place based on the geographic location of their IP Address. Â Read his post first, my reply to his email is below:
Sorry, it has taken me a couple of days to get back to you. have to disagree with you somewhat.
While I agree to the extent that often Google Books has corrupted or at leas bad scans, at least the scans are there. I too, tend to check Archive.org first because their digital copies are invariably of higher quality. That being said, there are many books that are only available on Google Books and so I will still use them. I live in Germany and I simply must rely on digital copies of books a lot of times because as much as I would like to, I don’t have the money to buy a physical copy of every book I use. I therefore prioritize my buying and use the digital sites to make up that lack. I too, think Google goes a little overboard with their copyright policy, but you yourself have pointed to an at least marginally quasi-legal work around through the use of proxies.
The fact remains that Google Books does a good service by making the contents of some very eminent libraries available online. Libraries that many people will never be able to visit. For that alone, Google is to be commended. It is easy for people to get ten-different kinds of worked up when “evil” big business does something that is not to their standards. The question I have is, who else is making such a huge effort at digitizing books? The answer is no one else is doing it on the scale Google is because only Google has the funding, we can complain and maybe Google will institute better QC methods into their scanning, but from where I sit it seems just as likely that they could decide it is a flawed product and stop doing it and for all the good Gutenberg and Archive.org do, they do not have anything like the deep pockets that Google has. Then again, I don’t automatically assume that something is bad if a corporation is doing it.
With all that about Google Books, there is an amazing array of material available on the internet. Â It is not always of the best quality, Wikipedia jumps immediately to mind, so some discernment is required. Â That is one of the reasons I made my resource post sticky, I hope to turn it into a pretty comprehensive internet bibliography of good history sources someday.