France and the EU are up in arms
at Google's plan to digitize the world's libraries.
When U.S.-based Google announced plans in December to undertake the cost of digitizing the world's books and making them searchable to the public for free, France called foul, with the country's top librarian complaining loudly of yet another example of "crushing American domination."
The European response to an American private company doing something at a profit? You guessed it:
...a rapid response from bureaucrats in The Hague has sent a signal that the whole continent now sees Google as a threat. Last week, four months after Google's announcement, the European Commission, which represents 25 countries, pledged 96 million euros to digitize all of the books from more than 20 of Europe's most pre-eminent libraries before America gets there first.
Well, good old competition has gotten them off their rear ends and into their taxpayers' pockets, and digitizing too, of course.
Nevertheless, despite liberal investment in government-sponsored projects and industry subsidies, Europe is largely missing from the PC and internet revolutions.
It's not for lack of trying. France poured billons of dollars in state aid into subsidizing Bull's operations for years, but the longtime state-owned computer and software group never managed to capture a credible share of the server and workstation markets against the likes of IBM, HP or other U.S. firms.
I don't suppose it is even possible that their failure to compete successfully is precisely because, rather than despite, pouring billions of taxpayers' dollars into state-owned companies. Now they are planning to spend $120 million or more to do what Google likely expects to make a profit at.
"...companies like Google, like Microsoft, like Apple ...are presented as almost technology imperialists at the forefront," said Jonathan Fenby, a former Observer editor and author of France on the Brink
Making a buck by serving the market, or spending a buck to serve the market: which is a more viable strategy?
(France's Bibliotheque Nationale President Jean-Noël) Jeanneney claimed that the EC's online library project is not so much about France's and Europe's dependence on U.S. technology, but instead addresses concerns about the historical footprint that Google will make. If Google's power remains unchecked, Jeanneney argues, it could unconsciously taint how future generations perceive and interpret not only the internet but the whole sweep of Western history and culture.
Yowza: The whole sweep of Western history and culture being tainted by...by...by FOREIGNERS? That must be truly scary. Especially when the foreigners are those vulgar American cowboys, and out to make a profit, at that. Acting like a bunch of Westerners they are, probably wearing Stetsons instead of a proper beret.
Government librarian Jeanneney again:
"The main issue of this project is not one that involves national pride, but it is necessary that the history of the planet (in the digital world) be communicated not only through an American medium, but one that is European -- or even Asian -- as well."
That's fair enuf. Competition is good, and it will keep Google et al on their feet, tho the assertion that this isn't about "national" ie politicians' pride is the sort of thing which makes me think that pride is exactly what it is about. It sure isn't about making money.
Bruce Gain has the story
in Wired. Thanks to ArtJournal
for the lead.
UPDATE: Thinking about France pouring money down a mousehole, how many billions did they spend on the supersonic Concorde? Expensive as tickets were, that boondoggle did nothing but subsidize the travel pleasure of the richer ppl in the world, courtesy of the you guessed it, taxpayers, all of whom undoubtedly walked a little taller every time a Concorde full of subsidized foreign multi-millionaires passed over at their expense.