From the Chronicle Review, an essay by Ronald G. Musto that argues Google's massive project to digitize the archives of several prestigious libraries achieves more harm than good. Musto provides compelling evidence that the scanning has proceeded (in many case) quite poorly, with pages incompletely reproduced or blurry or otherwise demonstrating some sign that a fatiguable human being brings book to glass. He concludes:
If we acknowledge that Google Books is serving up to us only a mutilated, good-enough version of our already vicarious understanding of the past, what value does that hold for us? What dangers lie in wait for generations of students and scholars for whom the digital — and Google's version of it — will become the only reality? Must a whole new generation begin to reassemble the mutilations produced by Google Books to create authoritative and reliable digital texts? Must 2009 repeat the efforts of 1509 in reassembling, collating, editing, and republishing the scattered fragments of the manuscript past, which the age of print finally made uniform and authoritative? That would be absurd, precisely because it is so unnecessary. But should Google Books prevail, and the resources of the scholarly community be made irrelevant by Google's sheer scale and force, the future of our past will be in great doubt.Though the execution could certainly be better, I have a difficult time seeing why scanning these books and making them avaialble is not good. The library copy doesn't vanish after digitization ... and to have the book's text now included in Google searches seems to me a great benefit.
Am I missing the evil Google commits through this project?