Eion Purcell had a forthright and not disagreeable commentary on the Google Archive announcement. I have a similar view that indeed newspapers are realizing they need the traffic to support the web presence and having allowed Google to index their content is great for us users (with a caveat) but also a monumental shift for how these newspaper publishers view themselves. That would be especially true for the New York Times which has visions of being the Nation’s (some think the World’s) newspaper and a destination themselves. I think that this announcement is also a harbinger of things to come and all database providers may find themselves having to open up to Google (and the others) and be indexed. That is just the way things will be.
The library and information database business is currently characterized by monolithic “packages” and all the largest publishers have invested huge amounts to create “platforms” and “solutions” that represent delivery mechanisms for their proprietary content. Google Indexing will become a large federated search engine for all this content progressively (not immediately and maybe not universally) undermining the ‘platform’ approach that publishers have pushed. Having said that, Google Indexing (for want of a better term) is not the total answer and in fact is – in the example of Google Archive – missing a key element. Missing is a navigation tool/enabler that allows a searcher to identify content during their search that they have rights to access via their public or academic library (or other contract with the data owner). This represents the caveat that I mention above.
The technology called ‘link resolver’ has been around for many years and if implemented between the search query and the location of the material would enable the searcher to ‘skip’ the part where they would otherwise have to pay. Authentication that the user has access is as easy as inputting the users library card number. Ideally and logically this only needs to be done once so that the searcher can conduct another search in three weeks and skip even this step.
Now, it is early days in this initiative and I expect improvements will be made rapidly. I did however wonder what libraries were saying about this announcement. Universally, the list serve comments on Web4Lib were that they were disappointed with the implementation. Comments include “..the predominate number of articles were not free but pay-per-view..” or “…people will end up paying for things they have access to” or “..the search doesn’t return anywhere like amount of content available via the library.” (If you want to read them here is the link). As I said above, this is early days and I think the general public will enjoy playing with this Archive. For libraries, I think this represents another opportunity to ride the Google coat tails and via link resolver bring searchers into the library and turn them into patrons.