Monday, 3 November 2008

Building for Eternity

When I was working on Turning the Pages with the British Library and Microsoft there was, as you might expect, a degree of cultural confusion. Our friends in London found it difficult that Redmond had quarterly targets and ways of hitting them. Our friends in Redmond found it extraordinary that the BL didn't think in such short timeframes.

So I used a story told to me about the architect of the BL, Colin Wilson. It was along the lines of the fact that when he designed the library, the specification of the materials was based on the need for the library to last for 400 years. Those are the horizons that major national collections have to have. The story helped bridge the cultural divide a little.

Now we see that Google has settled it's dispute with the AAP and Authors Guild and proposes a repository of out of print books that it will administer and charge libraries to use on special terminals. Harvard, one of the first to sign up with Google has bailed, stating it's unhappy about the restrictions.

Whatever the pragmatic sense in taking Google's money to digitise your collection, I believe you have to take a very long view when it comes to access.

I wonder if those who sign up to this new deal will have the foresight of Colin Wilson? The Open Content Alliance are already figuring out a response.

For more on (very) long term thinking I always find the thinking of the Long Now Foundation useful: