Ben Bunnell, Google library partnership manager, and Cliff Guren, Microsoft director of publisher evangelism, presented their view of the future to reference publishers June 22 during ALA at the Independent Reference Publishers Group meeting.
Google moves into reference
Bunnell said it was his first time presenting to publishers instead of librarians, and he gave a brief overview of the Google Books program. It has now digitized one million of 65 million books worldwide, and has added Spanish language books to its collections via partnerships with the University of Texas Austin and the University of Madrid. Google is finding that librarians have been using Book Search for acquisitions, which is a somewhat unexpected use.
Microsoft innovates behind
Cliff Guren said Microsoft’s goal is to turn web search into information search. “The reality is that 5 percent of the world’s information is digitized, less than 1 percent of the National Archives and less than 5 percent of the Library of Congress.”
Guren described new initiatives within Live Search, first launched in April 2006, including a partnership with Ingram to store copies of digitized texts, and agreements with CrossRef, Highwire, Eric, and JSTOR for metadata, and Books in Print data. Live Academic Search currently has 40 million articles from 30,000 journals, and includes books from “out of copyright content only.” Library partners include the University of California, the University of Toronto, Cornell University, the New York Public Library, and the British Library. Technology partners include Kirtas Technologies and the Internet Archive, recently declared a library in its own right by the State of California.New features in Live Book Search include options for publishers to retain control, including displaying percent viewable, image blocking, pages forward and back, and a page range exclusion modifier which also shows the user the number of pages alloted. The most unique feature shown was a view of the book page with a highlighted snippet.
Libraries negotiate collaboratively
Mark Sandler, director of CIC library initiatives, followed the sales presentations with some “inconvenient truths.” Sandler said library print legacy collections are deteriorating, some content has been lost in research libraries, and that “users prefer electronic access.”Stating the obvious, Sandler said “we can’t sustain hybridity,” referring to overlapping print and electronic collection building. More controversially, he made the claim that “Maybe we’re not in the book business after all.”Sandler said books take many shapes in libraries, including ebooks, database content, audiobooks, and that pricing models have shifted to include aggregate collections and “by the drink.”With legacy collections digitized, including the American Memory Project, Making of America, Documenting the American South, Valley of the Shadow, and Wright’s American Fiction, libraries had an early start with these types of projects. But with Google’s mission of organizing all the world’s information and making it universally accessible, Sandler claimed libraries are at the point of no return vis a vis change.With library partnerships with not only Google and Microsoft, but also Amazon, the Million Book Project (MBP), and new royalty arrangements, Sandler said there’s a world of new work for libraries to do, including using digitized texts to make transformative works with math, chemical equations, and music to archive, integrate and aggregate content.
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC Research, and Marie Radford, Rutgers University associate professor, described their IMLS-funded grant on millenials’ research patterns. Using a somewhat ill-conceived reproduction of a chat reference interaction gone awry, Connaway and Radford talked about “screenagers” and described user frustration with current reference tools.”Libraries need to build query share,” Connaway said. Their research intends to study non-users, as well as experiential users and learners. One of the initial issues is since students have been taught to guard privacy online, librarians can be viewed as “psychos and internet stalkers” when they enter online environments like Facebook and MySpace.
What’s in it for us?
Reference publishers asked Google and Microsoft representatives, “What’s in it for us to collaborate with you?”
Cliff Guren said, “If I were in your business, I would be scared–your real competition is Wikipedia.” Bunnell deflected the question, saying “librarians use Google Book Search” and advised publishers to “try a few books and see what happens.” Bunnell said he had been surprised to see thesaurus content and other reference books added by publishers, as he had thought they would be outside the scope. “Yet Merriam-Webster added their synonyms dictionary, and they seem to be pleased.”Guerin said,”We think we’re adding value for independent publishers,” but “if there are 400 reference works on the history of jazz, perhaps there will only be 5 or 10 needed in the future because of the inefficiencies of the print system.” Bunnell countered this point with an example, saying, “Cambridge University Press is using Google Book stats to determine what backlist books to bring back into print.”John Dove, Credo CEO (formerly xRefer), spoke about the real difference between facts and knowledge, and that “facts should be open to all.” Connaway said OCLC is finding that WorldCat.org referral traffic stats show 50 percent of users come from Google Book Search, 40 percent from Libraries, and 9 percent from blogs and wikis.
Future of print?
Gale Reference said they are seeing declining profits from print reference, and asked,”What’s the life of a reference book? Does it have 5 or 10 years left?” Radford answered by saying “I think the paper reference book will be disappearing.” She said all New Jersey universities will share reference collections because of lack of space and funds. Guren was more encouraging, saying “There’s still a need for what you [reference publishers] do. Reference information is needed, though perhaps a reference book is not.”