Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And Then There's France

As debate continues to simmer in this country about how best to respond to Google's digitization efforts - namely whether or not the Google Book Settlement should be approved in its revised form, and what that will mean for the future of digitization in this country - France has done what the U.S. probably ought to have done five or ten years ago: on Monday President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a pledge of the equivalent of $1.1 billion "toward the computer scanning of French literary works, audiovisual archives and historical documents."

The funding will go toward the creation of what's being described as a "public-private partnership" to digitize French literary materials, and Bruno Racine of the Bibliotheque Nacionale said that whatever arrangements are made could well include Google as a partner. The NYT reports that the French culture minister met last week with Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond.

While I may not agree with how France is paying for this (it's part of a $51 billion package, funded "largely through government borrowing, against the urgings of the European Union and the country’s own audit authority"), I definitely like the idea. A billion dollars would go a long way toward creating and implementing an open-source, open-access digital library (as hinted at by Robert Darnton in his most recent NYRB piece, which I commented on here).

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