Contact: Digital Libraries

University libraries are quickly going digital. But plans by Google to offer fully searchable databases of digitized books have spurred controversy. The Google Print program has come under fire from authors and publishers because the search giant wants to scan copyrighted material for the databases.

Google paused temporarily this summer to allow publishers and authors to "opt out" of having their works scanned, but the trade organizations objected, saying the company must obtain their permission to scan the materials in the first place. Google resumed the scanning process on Nov. 1.

"This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law," says Authors Guild president Nick Taylor. The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have filed separate lawsuits against Google claiming that Google Print is violating copyrights on a broad scale. Meanwhile, Yahoo! and Microsoft's msn, members of the global Open Content Alliance (OCA), plan to build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content.

Legal wrangling aside, advertising pundits say the widespread deployment of digitized books opens up a whole new world of ad real estate.

"If you can classify books from categories, [such as] biology books and technical material, that might be a great audience to advertise to because you know you are targeting an expert crowd," says Matt Spiegel, president of Chicago-based Resolution Media, which partnered with OMD to deliver customers to Web sites through targeted search engine listings.

Spokespeople for Microsoft and Yahoo! say they have not begun to explore advertising opportunities within the searchable databases, but observers see plenty of opportunity beyond banner ads.

"Over the long term, online digitized books offer a new and compelling opportunity to shift from print to online advertising [through] contextual search and paid keywords," says Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at Think Outsell, Inc., a Burlingame, Calif., a consultant for the information industry.

"The advertising industry is ethically agnostic...If the medium exists and suits the industry's purpose, it will exploit it," says Simon Simek, a lecturer in the Strategic Communications department at Columbia University, which is an OCA participant. "The industry is putting advertising on any mode of transportation and with anyone who will accept a dollar." Digitized books won't be an exception.

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