Monday, October 12, 2009

The Google Ark

The Times has published an op-ed piece by Google co-founder Sergey Brin titled “A Library to Last Forever.” Brin addresses many of the criticisms of the Google Books settlement and closes with a justification that explains the title: 
In the Insurance Year Book 1880-1881, which I found on Google Books, Cornelius Walford chronicles the destruction of dozens of libraries and millions of books, in the hope that such a record will “impress the necessity of something being done” to preserve them. The famous library at Alexandria burned three times, in 48 B.C., A.D. 273 and A.D. 640, as did the Library of Congress, where a fire in 1851 destroyed two-thirds of the collection.
I hope such destruction never happens again, but history would suggest otherwise. More important, even if our cultural heritage stays intact in the world’s foremost libraries, it is effectively lost if no one can access it easily. Many companies, libraries and organizations will play a role in saving and making available the works of the 20th century. Together, authors, publishers and Google are taking just one step toward this goal, but it’s an important step. Let’s not miss this opportunity.
Accompanying the piece is an image of books moving, two-by-two, into an ark.

The day before this piece appeared, Wired published an article, “Google’s Abandoned Library of 700 Million Titles,” about Google’s management of the Usenet archive. Google responded rather quickly.

P.S. It took me a bit of time, but I did find the Insurance Year Book cited by Brin: