February 24, 2005

"The battle is too unequal..."

A reader sends this article...

The head of the National Library of France says he worries that the vast digital library that Google is building in partnership with American and British institutions will quickly become a dominant force in scholarship -- and that it will have too much of an American tint to it....

...Mr. Jeanneney said action must come swiftly. If there is too much delay, he wrote, it will be too late. Once scholars start using Google's library, he said, it could become a bad habit that will be impossible to shake.

Mr. Jeanneney, in his essay, proposed a Europe-wide digital-library project. Europe alone, he argued, is equipped to take the reins of such an endeavor and establish itself as "a center of radiating culture and political influence without parallel on the planet."

The National Library of France has already placed 80,000 works and 70,000 images in its own digital library and will soon make available online reproductions of all major French journals since the 19th century. Those efforts, wrote Mr. Jeanneney, have earned the gratitude of online researchers and helped to spread France's influence around the world. But, he noted, "our annual spending amounts only to a thousandth of what Google has announced."

"The battle is too unequal," he said....

French documents should certainly be preserved in digital form. And perhaps some Frenchmen should be preserved too. Future scholars my have questions about French language or culture, and it would be nice to be able to thaw out an expert now and then to answer any queries...

Posted by John Weidner at February 24, 2005 11:41 AM
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