google launches archival news search 09.06.2006, 11:54 AM
posted by ben vershbow
Today Google unveiled a major extension of its news search service, expanding into periodical archives that stretch back to the mid-18th century. Most of the articles are pay downloads, or pay-per-view, and are offered by Google through licensing agreements with newspapers and existing document retrieval services including The New York Times Co., The Washington Post Co., The Wall Street Journal, Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis and Factiva. Google won't actually host content or handle payments, it simply presents items with titles, brief excerpts and ordering information. Google also crawls free archives already on the web and mixes these in, and (a nice touch) links all search results to "related web pages," plugging keywords into a general web search. Google won't run adds in this service, at least for now. More coverage here and here.
This is a fine service, but it only underscores the need for a non-commercial alternative. Much of the material here is public domain, but is provided through commercial services. Google simply adds a new web-integrated layer. Anyone who believes that the public domain ought to be fully accessible to all should be thinking bigger than Google.
bowerbird on September 6, 2006 1:03 PM:
> Anyone who believes that the public domain
> ought to be fully accessible to all
> should be thinking bigger than Google.
aha, you've finally found a way of putting this,
ben, where i won't jump down your throat. kudos!
sadly, though, for those of us who do believe that
the public domain ought to be accessible to all,
even that all human knowledge should be available,
society has been quite lethargic in waking up to
the fact that this dream is not just possible now,
but fully within realization with just a few tweaks.
even more dangerous, there are some greedsters
who seem bound and determined to deter progress,
so they can continue to extract middlemen fees
on the bridge between the people and knowledge.
but as important as it is to thwart their effort,
let's not confuse _every_ commercial venture as
something that needs to be attacked or resisted.
google is doing what no one else seems willing to do,
and deserves major credit for moving us off point zero.
yes, by all means, let us build public mechanisms
that give us universal access to human knowledge,
mechanisms that we know will always be totally free.
in the meantime, while we gear that up, please,
let's fight google's enemies, not google itself...
Barbara on September 6, 2006 8:52 PM:
I have mixed feelings about this. Libraries are trying to add incredible historical news sources, such as The New York Times, Chicago Trib, Wall Street Journal, and LA Times back to issue one. These are being digitized by ProQuest. These databases cost libraries huge amounts of money.
The search capabilities are much more developed than the Google product (where the limiting by decade does not work very well, and older results are not sorted chronologically), and you get full .pdf versions of the full broadside pages and each individual article. It's mindblowing. And it's free to library users - IF the library can afford it in the first place. (We're talking tens of thousands of bucks, here. And that's for a license limited to a certain community of users.)
Six years ago I needed to do archival news research; the NYPL library (the one with the lions) has a fantastic microfilm collection, with indexes. And you can wallk in the door, wherever you're from, and use it at no cost. (Yeah, you pay for printing, but I took notes. By hand. It worked.) Of course, I couldn't do this from my home in Minnesota, but they didn't stop me at the door because I wasn't paying taxes in New York. They let everyone in.
So I guess I'm wondering is how useful is it to see what you can only have if you pay by the piece? We could fund libraries to make it available to the citizens, only licensing rules and market economics means you have to LIVE somewhere that invests in libraries and thinks this kind of research is worthwhile. Or we could somehow publicly fund digitizing of historically significant archives (which is happening though not as widely as the ProQuest historical newspaper product). Or we could just throw up our hands and say "if you have it, monetize it."
And those who can afford it get to use it.
Peter Murray on September 7, 2006 10:48 AM:
I sense both Ben's and Barbara's frustration here. The technology does exist for linking between Google and library-supported services (it is OpenURL, and I talk about it in a posting on my own blog). I also talk about three scenarios about why this hasn't happened, and I believe this is a case of following the money -- Google is a public corporation and it likely gets a kickback from the content distributors and aggregators for sending business their way. So maybe we do need to build a similar service ourselves that marches to the beat of a drum that is different from maximizing shareholder return?